Today was always going to be a big fat, giant rolling boulder from Indiana Jones style, danger game on our road to The Impossible Dream. We were lucky to hold on to beat the rancid Lions last week, and the Tigers were coming off their 6th win of the year just a few weeks after it looked like they were going to win none and be relegated to Auskick. Not only were they enjoying what constitutes a winning streak for them (though who are we to talk?) but our record against teams we should beat has been wonky this year. Anyone remember the West Coast debacle? I’m trying not to. It’s almost scandalous to think that game could end up being the difference between us making the finals or not, because when the siren went that day it seemed to me that we were about to be pitched into a neck-and-neck backwards race for the spoon with the Eagles and Richmond, and with no motivation to put the tank in fifth gear and go for it this time. Since then Brisbane have imploded in spectacular fashion to put themselves into the trashcan of history and the other two have both had players who kicked ten or more goals in a match yet still manage to remain the bottom two sides. We, on the other hand, have had no player kick more than five and are knocking down the door of a miracle appearance in September. The world is an amazing place.
Suddenly a match that looked pre-season, and let’s be frank even mid-season, like it would be an end of year training drill played with all the intensity of the Lingerie Football League (no really, it’s even on Foxtel and is just as bad as you’d expect) was suddenly being described by some slightly unhinged commentators as the preview for a future blockbuster between two of the next big things of AFL football. Lovely sentiment, but are there two teams that you can almost certainly rely on more to snatch shambles from the jaws of a glory era than us and Richmond? No offence to the Tiges and their Zigfield Follies inspired theme song but I’m happy to leave them behind as long as we get the glory that’s been promised. Still a long way off that sports fans.
Now, I don’t want to suggest that Richmond fans are starved for success but the reaction from them when ‘their’ kids beat ‘our’ kids in the pre-match tug of war was like the Second World War had just been won again. I hate myself for even taking an interest (well, it was for charity) but it should be pointed out that ‘our’ kiddies had the worst set up in tug ‘o war history (and lest we forget it did used to be an Olympic sport) so it was no wonder they got beaten. There was about five metres of empty rope at the back that nobody was on. Ever heard of an anchor man? It was either shambolic or an inside nod to the 2009 tanking debacle. Inappropriate comment of the day went to the guy next to me who said “and that’s why you’re orphans” when they lost. He was later beaten with the karma stick when a bunch of kids showed up and he had to move seats.
Further pre-match ‘entertainment’ was provided by the MCG with their baffling choice of music. There were the usual staples, that Dropkick Murphy’s shit from the AFL ad and the Coldplay song that they’ve been flogging the life out of for the past two years, but interspersed throughout were a bunch of good time classic hits straight from the Magic 1278 playlist. Who thought footy fans were ready and waiting for a revival of the original Needles ‘n Pins? Thought we were half a chance of hearing Crimson And Clover, which let’s be frank is a cracker, but just as Tommy James and the Shondells fans started to fire up they busted out Coldplay again. Rumour is that Chris Martin has bought Uganda from the royalties he’s received from the MCG for playing that 97 times at every match. If the MCG are reading I’ll put my hand up to make some CD’s for them if they want, and the tracks will bring the freaking house down too.
Speaking of pre-match debacles did anyone else notice what an utter farce the “Injury Report” was? Apparently The Stefan Martin Experience is “back in training” (last week the club acknowledged that he’s been shelved for the season) and Juice Newton, seen yesterday playing a B-Grade version of Brad Green style end-to-end total football in the VFL, is “one week away from returning”. Worksafe should ask for their money back for sponsoring that crap. Also of note was Relton Roberts of Richmond being on the list with a season ending ‘injury’ labelled as ‘personal’. Makes it sound as if he’s got some sort of serious issue with his cruets.
Apparently there was some sort of game on too, and bloody hell didn’t it look a bit dicey early on? Lucky for us that Richmond were incompetent when they went inside 50 because all they did for the first five minutes was get it in there. For obvious reasons we were double/triple teaming their only decent forward, but elsewhere Nason, taking time out from posting on the Support Australian Hip Hop internet forum and graffiting trains (ok, maybe not the second one but he looks like he should be) was looking far too lively for my liking. Amusingly for all their dominance they only managed two points and the first time we went inside 50 The Jurrahcane kicked the first. Just the sort of winning scenario that we’re usually on the end of – at least on the days when we’re not conceding the first goal within the first 15 seconds. Absolute slop of a game early on, allowing me to psychologically adjust to the prospect of losing by convincing myself that we didn’t deserve to be anywhere near the finals anyway. It was all set up for the sporting equivalent of having something taken away from you as a kid and screaming “I didn’t want it anyway!” To be honest on the strength of the first half alone we don’t deserve it, and the second half was hardly an advertisement for a quality run through September, but like a drowning man thrown a penis shaped life preserver I’ll take whatever I can get at the moment.
Number one moment of the first term was undoubtedly Riewoldt trying to kick one of these now standard along the ground goals and totally stuffing it up. Serves him right, unless you’re kicking from Row Z and have no other option – e.g Bennell against Footscray – just kick the bloody thing through properly. An open goal is not something to be taken lightly. Glad he botched it but I know that one of our players is going to do the same at some point so let’s cut it out now. Somebody start a Facebook pressure group a’la Hey Hey It’s Saturday so the Herald Sun will report on it.
Second quarter didn't answer any questions. Richmond snuck in front by a couple of goals, aided by some idiot taking an epic dive against Rivers right in front of goal, but they were never comfortable with the lead. Much like last week it's a good thing that we were playing a side shitter than us because anybody half decent would have put us away. Jamar was killing it at the bounces but we were getting bugger all out of the middle so thank god for their one dimensional forward line not working. It took Dirty Mo Dunn's double strike within a minute to turn the tide. Johnson's abysmal attempt at a snap would have nearly put us far enough in front to start getting comfortable, but straight after that they went up the other end and kicked a goal themselves to make it interesting. Took TGFB Green to goal on the siren to get us back in front, but it still didn't look comfortable. Rubbish game to that point as well, you'd have switched the channel if you were a neutral. Everyone who has come and told me what a great game it was today must have either switched on for the second half or accidentally slipped on the red/blue tinted glasses.
Luckily for the sake of neutrals (and don’t you hate those guys?) the intensity level was cranked up to a ludicrous level in the second half. Suddenly it was all about ten man stacks-on and guys tackling like rabid animals. The pressure didn’t hurt, but more than anything else Richmond lost because they had bugger all forwards other than Riewoldt. The most telling moment was after Jack’s fruitless first half Hardwick was forced to send Will Thursfield inside 50. Thursfield has played 66 games and kicked zero goals. He has still kicked zero goals tonight despite having two shots early in the quarter. That’s just the sort of bullshit scenario that we usually fall victim to - witness Brett bloody Thornton almost doubling his career total against us earlier in the year - but luckily for us both his shots had a Jamie Shanahan-esque touch about them and he never went near it again.
At the other end The Jurrahcane was suffering from the yips and missed two absolutely gettable kicks on either side of a Jones goal. Am I the only one who is concerned that his technique for marking low to the ground is going to come back to haunt him someday? It's hard to explain without photographic evidence but it seems to me like instead of diving forward to take the mark he almost slides into it with his legs underneath him. All good if he's grabbing them, but every time he goes for one I'm waiting for him to come up with his ankle pointing in the opposite direction.
We'd just got our noses in front again when Cousins marked directly in front but sadly for once wasn’t seeing imaginary rats and dragons and managed to slot the goal instead of extracting his own eyeball with a spoon and microwaving it. No really Ben, get well soon because I don’t want to cop the same sort of hate mail as I did after the second best Nathan Brown snapped his leg and a certain idiot shamefully sung an offensive ditty about it on Level 3 of Telstra Dome while wearing a balaclava. Riewoldt finally got his first when everybody in the western world except the guys wearing red and blue knew he was going to run out and kick it from a better angle, but that was pretty much him done for the day. Looked like it was going to be under a goal at the last change before Dirty Dunn marked and just like last week kicked the big roost from outside 50. If you'd given me odds on him being the clutch goalkicker of the week twice in a row I'd have wanted 100-1 after the Freo debacle, now he's booting them from everywhere.
Still, I wasn't confident being just a goal in front at the last break, and when they took the margin from 7 to 0 within the first two minutes the old blood pressure started to creep up. Was nowhere near the season high score of the minute after the siren against Collingwood in R2 - if it was I'd be dead - but it was creeping upwards. Especially when the Morton goal which tied the scores came as a gift when for the second time yesterday the whole world knew he was going to run around but nobody stood there to stop him.
Thankfully for our collective mental and physical health it was all MFC from there. After playing a first half where he looked completely lost, Watts came into some form in the last. He stuffed up an easy bouncing ball which would have made Bradforth J Miller sit up in his loungeroom and think that he was an absolute cert to get a recall next week, but from then on he pretty much took the piss. Just a minute after the ball bouncing debacle he would up on the end of a Bail kick in the square, after Rohan – one of the best stories of our season - had performed some sort of sick Playstation-esque spin move on the Richmond defence (press triangle + square + R1 if you’re playing at home). More underrated was the way he waited on his kick to Dunn after a desperation torp from the kick-in landed in his arms. He just held it up long enough for the useless Tigers defenders to wander off and leave Ron Jeremy on his own in the square for the fifth goal. Equally underrated was the snap which clearly crossed the line but was paid a mark as part of “Goal Umpire Fuck Ups Week”.
It’s all about confidence. You could argue that Miller needs to be rewarded for his domination in the VFL, but unless The Golden Child is showing signs of fatigue then I can’t bring myself to swap them over. We know what we’re getting with Miller, and we know it’s far more likely to occur against a bunch of 17-year-olds and overpaid Rugby players than it is in an AFL match. No change required in this forward line for me, Watts has got to be thrown into what is effectively our biggest match since the ’06 finals and sink or swim let the cards fall where they may.
Bruce did a great job of tagging Shane Tuck to buggery (at least I think it was Shane Tuck. The longer the season goes the less I care about any opposition player), but any danger he might hit a target by foot at some point? He needs to go to the same short course on “how to dispose effectively when you can’t kick straight” which Jamar emerged from as the most powerful force on earth.
I loved the way how our fans suddenly developed a massive sense of arrogance in the last quarter when the game was well and truly won. Didn’t it warm your heart to hear every single Richmond shot on goal in junktime furiously booed? Even poor old Jack Riewoldt, who had done nothing (literally) all day was given the reception of a serial arsonist when he had the audacity to tie up his shoelaces. Then he missed the kick and the crowd went apeshit. Magic moments.
Underrated highlight was Dunn kicking the sealer by smashing one through from the goalsquare for his fifth then leaving Jurrah hanging on a high five so he could look up to see if the ball landed in the top deck or not. Sadly it fell just short. He got jibbed by the siren out of what may very well have been his sixth, but just to keep things light and interesting he whacked it through with a banana off one step anyway. Certainly went down well with those in the ground who were clearly hard of hearing and didn’t know the game was over. No way would he have kicked it like that had he had the opportunity to go back and take a real shot at goal, but the way he finished it effortlessly tells me he should do it more. He’s certainly had a good run of fluky bounces, wild snaps and grandstand finishes ever since the ridiculous facial hair that he originally sported in the pre-season came back onto the scene a couple of months ago. He has been unreal over the last month or so, for somebody who was on the skids bigtime halfway through the year he’s finally found a niche as a defensive forward who kicks goals as well, and he’s an option to do a tagging job if he absolutely must. I put it down to the mo. It scares children and must surely make him the only footy player less likely to bag a root at Motel than Steven Milne but it’s giving him supernatural powers and cannot under any circumstances be allowed to be shaved off before the end of the season. He who weareth the adult industry standard moustache, kicketh thy clutch goals. Put that on a t-shirt. Just to think, a year ago when the Tank Blitzkrieg was rolling its way towards the draft he was being turned over by Todd Goldstein to the tune of five goals in one of the worst (but deliberate) matchups ever recorded.
Stat My Bitch Up
Joel Macdonald also had a shot which he botched and he’s now the proud owner of the longest active playing streak in an MFC jersey without a single goal. This was his 15th match without one, passing Kyle Cheney who is marooned on 14. At least Macdonald has six career goals in Brisbane to reminisce about, all Cheney has is the honour of being the only person ever to get 5 votes from me on debut.
Both of them have got a long way to go to snatch the all-time record of 90 games held by Bernie Massey between 1960 and 1967. Shanahan (37) and Jamie Duursma (33) are the only players of the last 30 years to be in the top twenty so if Macdonald or Cheney manage to rack up those sorts of numbers I’ll be holding a street party to celebrate.
Spent the first half in the middle deck of the Ponsford bedazzled by the sheer amount of Richmond branded knitwear on offer (and not all of it homemade by the looks of it), and the Punt Road peanuts in front of us who got up and started dancing when the PA inexplicably fired up Love Is In The Air before the match. Come gametime and everything else was forgotten when the screeching tart behind me commenced screaming at everything Richmond related in a pitch only slightly inside the realm of what humans can understand. And when she wasn’t saying something like “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” she was lambasting the Tiges for kicking the ball too much. Unfortunately most of her wild anti-kicking sideways rants were delivered when they were doing perfectly legitimate switching of the play to free players. At one point the old bint nearly had a coronary but when the ball got over to the Olympic Stand side wing and found four Richmond players on their own she let out another orgasmic “EEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” Hypocrite. The idiot sitting with her almost had a fit laughing when he saw the “Eat ‘em Alive” banner in the cheersquad. Must have been the first game they’d ever been to given how that slogan has been getting a run since about 1978.
Unable to stand the headache inducing wailing any longer we moved up a level at half-time. Now, I’m talking to the MCG and whoever the idiots that make a fortune out of the catering contract at the ground here when I say how many people do we need to have at a game to get a food outlet open on that level? Is 45k not enough? Still, I suppose anything that saves me from wasting $4.90 on a soggy, pink hot dog of dubious meat quality can’t be argued against.
Crowd Watch supplement – Look away if you’re eating
Somebody who did get a feed was the kid sitting behind us. Unfortunately it appears that he ate something utterly toxic, because just after the start of the third quarter he was being ushered down to the stairs by his father when he unleashed one of the biggest spews in the history of the Western world. It went all down the railing, and by extension the wall of the walkway. “That’s unfortunate” I said, always the master of understatement, before turning around to realise that he’d ralphed all over the row behind us as well. And I mean all over. Not surprisingly a massive runner was done, though I’m not sure why we only went over to the other side of the walkway because the damage was well and truly still visible. A few minutes later a cleaner was called in by the security guards but he walked up there, took one look at refused to do anything about it. Bear in mind there was a footy match going on during all of this, but I couldn’t look away from the intense human drama. At one point it looked like he was going to call a union meeting and take all the cleaners out on strike. He disappeared for a few minutes before returning, obviously having been told that he was on some sort of Workchoices era AWA which meant he had to do whatever they told him for $7 an hour or get the arse and did a half-arsed job of mopping up the damage. He didn’t touch the damage to the wall though, and later on some annoying child in Corey Worthington issue sunglasses and fluffy jacket leant on it. I nearly rose to applaud.
On a similar topic it was like being in the middle of the World War I with all the seagulls during the fourth quarter. Every time I caught a gust of wind it made me think that I’d copped the bullet with my name on it that I’ve been avoiding since that infamous day when the bastards nailed me in 1993 and we won by twenty goals.
Admittedly I took the piss out of Bailey jumping on the bandwagon and coaching from the boundary line, but tell me you don’t love seeing him talking to the players when they come off. Might be something of a different look when we’re getting flogged and he’s sitting there with bigger eyes than Mark Harvey screaming at some poor 18-year-old like the Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket, but for now I love it. He’s sworn once on TV this year, but wouldn’t it just make your year if Bails started doing FMJ style “what is your major malfunction?” outbursts, screaming in the face of Jack Trengove that “the days fingerbanging Miss Mary Jane Rottencrotch are over”, and threatening to rip Jamie Bennell’s head off and shit down his neck. Glorious.
2010 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 – James Frawley
4 – Lynden Dunn
3 – Brad Green
2 – Aaron Davey
1 – Liam Jurrah
Apologies to Scully (VERY unlucky), Macdonald, Bruce, Bail, Jones, Jamar, Bartram, McDonald and McKenzie.
The gap closes to one BOG. Something tells me that if we’re going to win next week it might take Chip picking up a shitload of votes to get us over the line. The question is what will happen at the other end. It’s almost certainly down to two after Jamar missed out this week.
38 - Brad Green
33 - 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
15 - Aaron Davey
14 - Matthew Bate
12 - Jack Grimes
11 - Jack Trengove (Leader: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
10 - Brent Moloney, Lynden Dunn
8 - Jordan Gysberts, Tom Scully, Jordie McKenzie
7 - Joel Macdonald
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, Liam Jurrah
Fun With The Ladder Predictor
Is it an omen that the predictor is sponsored by Bailey Ladders? As much as I'd love to present all the scenarios here and try to rank them from “probable” to “tripping on acid” it’s enough of a piss-take to be writing most of this at work as is without having the AFL website up running riot with predictions/desperate attempts at convincing self of finals tilt. Maybe later in the week. Call my internet company and tell them to fire up and connect the bloody thing at home so I can do it there.
What I don’t want to hear again is how much this is like 1987. Clearly I was too young to be involved in that madness, but that was in an era when less than half the sides made the finals and games were being played at the same time. This time if the miracle occurs we’ll be falling in pretty much by default and will know exactly what the equation is at 4.39pm on the last day of the season. There’s no ears pressed to radios waiting to hear Geelong stuff if it up at Kardinia Park this time, and the major difference is that it’s only been four seasons since we played finals – then it had been 24 so that’s a tad more extreme of a situation than what we find ourselves in today. Still, tell me that on a Sunday night in late August when we’ve just booked ourselves the chance to be poked in the crack by Freo at Subi. Why are we even discussing this? What the hell has this season/world come to? And if this really is some sort of 1987 Redux we’re at least going to win the first final by 20 goals, watch out for shenanigans in the last couple of minutes of the prelim though.
After doing us no favours against the Swans yesterday we get the chance to say thanks to the Hawks by sticking a dagger in their season on Sunday. Can’t see it happening to be honest, but more insane things have happened – either way it’ll be a fair indication of how fair we’ve come from the round one debacle. I have a vision of the future that involves Chip Frawley treating Lance Franklin with utter contempt and Dunn’s mo detaching from his face and kicking six. Then it’s off to Adelaide to get done over by pissweak Port for the tenth consecutive year.
I’m not too keen to rush into making changes for the sake of it. Moloney is a cert if he’s finally fit, but there’s nobody who really deserves to go to make way. We’ve got to double team the Hawks in the ruck so Johnson survives. The Jurrahcane might have been wobbling last week, but he’s a confirmed starter now so that’s bad news for Bate and Miller. Sorry Bradforth, but at least you’re cracking on to a stunner so I’m sure that’ll be some consolation. I don’t know about Bater’s living arrangements but if he’s not achieving on a similar level to Miller then he’ll just have to console himself with the knowledge that I’m still in his fan club.
Also consigned to the lunar surface of Casey Fields for the foreseeable future is Matthew Warnock. Garland muffed it a few times today, but between him, Rivers and Macdonald who is absolutely killing it at the moment there’s no spot for him despite a near BOG performance on Saturday. Handy sort to have in reserve though.
Am I the only one who feels slightly guilty that we’re even involved in finals calculations? Guilty, but kind of horny about it (in a sporting way).