There’s something sordid about watching games on Fox instead of being there in person. Maybe it’s because the spectre of Tony Shaw/Dwayne Russell style ‘analysis’ hangs over the coverage, maybe it’s because I feel the need to socialise with the other people watching with me instead of just shoving in an earphone at the game and only speaking to people on my terms. It’s hard work being this much of an anti-social bastard.
Either way I’m forced to confess that once again I sat through an entire TV match and have precious little insight (even less than usual) into what took place. What I do know is that the feint heartbeat of the finals miracle which was so comprehensively rubbished in these pages last week now beats a little louder. Sure it’s been upgraded from “nearly flatline” to “trapped coal miner” but wouldn’t you have spat at anyone who even suggested it at the start of the year – or even a few weeks ago. Still truly unlikely but at least we’ve got something to play for over the next few weeks instead of seeing the whole season slide straight into the junktime trashcan.
Step one was to get a win in Brisbane for the first time since 2006. That was the last time they were truly shite and even then we only just fell over the line so given that we have a worse travelling record than Air Congo it was certainly no gimme that we’d repeat the dose this time. Standing in the way were the biggest footballing fall from grace of the modern era, who would have thought that the night we touched them up earlier in the season would set off one of the most immense crashes in the history of league football. This is a side who were 4-0 and now could win the spoon – that’s got to be a rarity. But just to keep things nice and confusing the one side they beat was the one currently sitting comfortably, and well out in front on the top of the ladder.
You could tell from the first bounce that we were going to get the current model slopfest Lions and not the one that somehow managed to beat the Pies. Maybe it was an omen that when I went to South Melbourne Market yesterday (hello stalkers) somebody was selling Brisbane Bears scarves, because they barely managed to be better than some of the classic Carrara sides of the past. Still, despite Sylvia and Scully running around like men possessed and Jamar massacring anybody the Lions put up against him in the ruck we only snuck in front at the first change thanks to THE CELEBRATOR (sadly no gang symbols flashed last night) goalling at the end after yet another Brisbane cock-up in the backline.
You (almost) had to feel sorry for Michael Voss. Even early in the game when it was even they’d cut to him in the coaches box and he’d look like a man about to have a massive nervous breakdown. Then, already having copped shit from the entire world for his ‘eccentric’ trading policies in the off-season he watched two of his prized (stop laughing) recruits, Fev and Xavier Clarke go down with game ending injuries before half-time. On the other hand Bailey was hanging around the boundary line looking like he was ready to kick back in a banana lounge and start honking onto a cigar. Something tells me that god forbid we ever win a flag there’s not going to be any Mark Williams style choking with the tie and “Alan Scott you were wrong” outbursts from Bails, he’ll probably just get up there, grab the premiership cup and go “yeah that was pretty good” then walk off.
After his lacklustre performances over the last weeks Fev probably only played because he’s got a storied history of stitching us up when he played for Carlton, but they might as well not have bothered because Garland absolutely smacked him from the first bounce until he was mothballed/exiled to KFC in the second quarter. The other member of the ex-Twin Towers of the forward line Brown did his usual trick of trying to carry the whole side on his shoulders but there’s only so much you can do when you’re surrounded by garbage. Didn’t help that he was on the red hot Frawley who smashed him going the other way as well.
Second quarter was when class started to win out, and there’s not many times in the past few years you’ve been able to say in regards to us. First they bugger one up royally kicking across the face of goal for Green to goal after a Watts handball when he could have taken a shot, then Bennell stuffs up an easy one on the run before the man, the myth, the Sylvia (somebody please go and erase all those posts where I suggested Brock was the best one out of that draft) and Bail both kicked goals to send us clear. Then in what must surely have been the defining highlight of the evening Davey pulled off the save of the year flying through the air to mark a certain goal down to a point. Nothing was going wrong for us and the Lions couldn’t get anything right.. Until they kicked a goal. Never fear though because Dunn had strapped his kicking boots on again (which is a rarity) and got his second before Johnson (barely did anything but played a handy backup to the Russian master) got another a minute later to send us in five goals to the good. Things were going so well that I even managed to tune out the sound of Tony Shaw’s voice and completely ignore his commentary for a whole quarter. Glorious.
So far so good, and on the strength of last week’s third quarter slaughter you’d think we were going to waltz away with this one as well, especially with the Lions down to two players on the bench. Then the tempo of the game changed completely, the Brisbane players - obviously having been on the end of an almighty spray from Voss at half-time – deciding to put in for the first time since the ten minute mark of the first quarter and we started to crack a bit under the pressure. Not only that but the forward line which had looked so deadly in the first half were suddenly all at sea and the ball was continuously being pumped inside 50 and straight to Brisbane players. The only compensation was that they were utterly bollocks as well, and with Mitch Clark unable to hit the side of a barn from the first of numerous set shots during the half we just managed to stay in front. The only spark for the Lions came from Albert Proud who was, I’m sure you’ll agree, sporting the worst haircut in not only the history of the VFL/AFL but maybe the world. If you didn’t see it then there’s nothing I can say that will give you a picture of how bad it looked. It was basically a closely cropped haircut but with a line completely shaved between forehead and top of head. Absolutely ridiculous. Somewhere even Nathan Carroll was sitting at home (or perhaps in a jail cell) shaking his head and wondering what the hell the kid was thinking when he went in and asked for one of those.
Ten minutes without a score and it was a case of “thank god they’re so shit” because we completely lost our rhythm. Eventually the idiot with the bad hair got two goals in two minutes and Brown another to crack the game wide open. Cue much nervous fidgeting and warnings from the people who knew to the non-football fan in the room that they were about to see one of my famous footy spaz outs. Somewhat unfair I thought considering I’d watched the whole thing until then the sense of detatchment that you only get from suddenly thinking that you follow a decent team but not wanting to talk it up too much in case you actually don’t. Mind you this was the people who saw me throw things across a room when we lost that NAB Cup game against Hawthorn in Tasmania after swearing black and blue for four quarters that I wouldn’t get upset no matter what happened, so obviously they knew better than to take my word for it that I’d behave.
Luckily just when it looked like the Lions were going to drag the margin into single digits Rockliff the idiot gave away a cheap free-kick to Thank God For Brad Green for a push in the back and the future captain slotted the goal from row K of the stands. So much manlove for that guy, we might have fallen out briefly in the mid 00’s but it goes right back to the moments after the Farmer-led win against Collingwood in 2000 when I tried to offer him my then girlfriend in joy at the victory. He wisely declined and I was stuck with her. That was also the day that I told Shane Woewodin I’d backed him for the Brownlow and that he was going to win it. And did I get a thanks in the speech when he did? No I bloody did not.
20 points in front at the last change and the general consensus in the room was that we were home and I should stop clutching the side of the couch like I was on a freefalling DC-10. “We’ve lost from better positions than this!” I cried, and not without some justification. One goal quarters aren’t so bad when you’ve done the hard work already, but it doesn’t help against a side desperate to get the monkey off their back in front of a home crowd. When Clark stuffed up his second and third shots of the half to cut the margin to an even three goals it looked even more likely that we were going to suffer the sort of reverse which could cause me to pitch the couch off the balcony onto a car 11 floors below. Then Brown got it right for his second goal and I started to think of what angle I’d have to tilt the thing on to get onto the balcony.
Cue ten minutes of arm wrestle, end to end football with the Lions looking far more likely to score than us. When Banfield – the man so red that he makes Matthew Bate and the Demonblog toaster guy feel good – goalled to cut the margin to five points I could see where it was going and I DID NOT LIKE IT AT ALL. Not that I let on, in a desperate attempt to prove the critics wrong I remained outwardly calm despite the feeling that my internal organs were about to spew out of my body a’la Aliens. This is why I should avoid watching games with neutrals, it’s too embarrassing to lose the plot and make a fool of yourself. At least when you’ve got your own fans there they understand.
Thank god then for Tom Rockcliff who managed to gift us a goal for the second time in the quarter when he gave away a ridiculous 50 on Dunn. Two goals for the whole half, both from his indiscretions – we should send him a card. It was the most obvious free of all time, so if you go to work tomorrow and some Brisbane fan (if you can find one) tries to tell you that it wasn’t then tip their desk over. What a complete tool, the man with the worst facial hair in football takes an easy mark in front of him and Rockliff the spaz pushes him squarely in the back right in front of the umpire. What did he expect to happen? Amazingly Dunn, not exactly the most reliable set shot in the world managed to drill a 50m bomb and we were home. My mask of sanity slipped and I ended up sliding onto the floor and pounding it with both hands in celebration.
Proud and his rubbish haircut missed a shot that would have bought it back to under a goal and we were home. Watts had a flying snap at the other end that would have bought the house down but missed. Didn’t matter, we’d just done enough to keep the dream alive.
Watts played an interesting game. 27 touches but seemed to be playing in the midfield for most of the night. Was pretty good early but towards the end he got rolled under pressure a few times, and a couple of his handballs were pure bollocks. Still, he's getting better and better every week so I expect nothing more than pure superstardom next year. Not to put the pressure on or anything..
Now we’re pitched into a nerve shattering hellride involving us only losing one more this season (presumably to Hawthorn), and everyone around us getting done when they’re supposed to. Never happens that way, but you can always live the dream. Either way how much more fun is football again?
2010 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 – Colin Sylvia
4 – Mark Jamar
3 – Joel Macdonald
2 – Tom Scully
1 – Jordie McKenzie
Apologies to Bruce, Dunn (stiffer than a honeymooner to miss out), Jones, Garland, Davey, Watts, Frawley, Bartram, Morton, Davey and Green
So the week after I say that there’s no way Green or Frawley won’t pick up votes in upcoming games both of them are nudged into the apologies (unluckily in Frawley’s case). Four votes for Jamar keeps his hopes alive, but the big two are still the ones to beat. Imagine if this was decided by a finals game? I’d probably have died with joy and somebody else would have to do the honours.
Elsewhere Scully closes the gap on Trengove for the Hilton. I made the rules for eligibility so obtuse that I can't even remember if McKenzie is eligible so we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
35 - Brad Green
28 - James Frawley (WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
27 - Mark Jamar (WINNER: Strawbs O'Dwyer Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
24 - Colin Sylvia
23 - James McDonald
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, Tom Scully, Jordie McKenzie
7 - Joel Macdonald
6 - Lynden Dunn
5 - Cameron Bruce, Ricky Petterd, Jamie Bennell
3 - Matthew Warnock, Brad Miller, Colin Garland
2 - Neville Jetta, Clint Bartram, Jack Watts
1 - Jared Rivers, Nathan Jones, Austin Wonaeamirri
Richmond on Sunday. Bloody nora the pulse rate will start to quicken a bit if we win this one. Either way it’ll be a far cry from that debacle of a match last season, I wouldn’t expect to see a Warnock led forward line this time. Now that their mini-revival has come and gone you’d expect that we’d win comfortably to keep the juggernaut rolling but nothing is for sure. Either way next Sunday night/Monday morning you’re going to read something wild on here – we’ll either have snatched shambles from the jaws of glory or the MFC Miracle will be one step closer.