Once again it's a good thing that I'm writing this four hours after the final siren (and in fact as it later turns out also the next day) because had I managed to dictate my thoughts immediately as I trudged through the pouring rain outside the ground, having stormed out after another shameful outburst, this whole enterprise would have been shut down by every internet filter on earth and landed me with an ASIO file. I was absolutely ropeable, having not had time to digest just how lucky we'd been to have even gotten that close given our performance and how two of the run of worst umpiring decisions ever (non-goal umpire category) didn't cost us at all because the Hawks stuffed up the frees. No time yet for it to sink in that we didn't deserve to be in finals calculations in the first place and were punching well above our weight by being included as anything more than a novelty option in September calculations.
No, I was wandering the banks of the Yarra with a mix of rage and aimlessness that even Mark Latham would rise to applaud. Trudging home, soaked about two minutes after leaving the ground, I resolved to tip the first Hawthorn fan that passed and said something 'hilarious' into the drink. Never happened, mainly because I'd stormed out with two minutes on the clock but also because I was wearing the facial expression of a serial killer. At one point some guy asked "Did you win?" and I very politely scowled "no" and kept walking before he could ask anything more (do people not have internet enabled mobiles? It's not 1985 anymore you know).
Rewind a couple of hours to when we were young, dumb and full of hope. Hawthorn started as favourites but there were no end of people willing to put their hand up, or in their pocket, to back us to do the job. They'd been shit for a fortnight, and while we'd hardly set the world on fire in the same timeframe we'd at least managed to put two wins on the board. Also contrary to popular belief we hadn't been that bad against them during the Bailey era, sure we were treated like a prostitute in Round 1 and the less said about the disastrous first game of DB's coaching career the better but the two matches in the middle of that were decent contests that we might have snatched with a bit more experience and poise. Either way when you lose the first of four contests by 104 points it's a long way back to a respectable average losing margin. And who will ever forget The Stefan Martin Experience kicking his first career goal with a snap plucked straight from the far reaches of his arse in our match against them last year? Everyone except the two of us I'll bet.
The first thrust forward from the Hawks, saw the ball bounce over everybody and drop onto the post but after that the next five minutes belonged to us. Jurrah got the first goal and super-mo Dunn the second to make me at least start to perk up and wonder if we might not be on the way to the sort of runaway win that makes the entire football world sit up and think "bloody hell, what's going on here?" a'la the Sydney match. Then the ball went forward for the Hawks again and Franklin got one of his few legitimate scores of the day with the most unorthodox and shit but ultimately successful snaps of all time. Fair enough, no harm done - especially when Green marked and goalled at the other end and then Super Mo managed to cheat the umpire out of a free 50m directly in front before the next bounce. If he'd kicked that we could have been away but finally given a kick at goal from directly in front he muffed it. Bizarrely our three goal kickers then proceeded to completely disappear from the match. Elsewhere it started pissing down and the umpires must have caught a glimpse of how badly they'd been taken for a ride by Dunn's dive because from then on we received pure shaft from them without even the courtesy of a reacharound.
Either way, despite the Hawks dominating around the ground and going inside 50 with ease - compare and contrast to our play which often resembled World War I battlefield style inch-by-inch movement - we got four goals (so often a three-quarter time score) and went in equal. There was something drastically unbalanced about it though, like a boxer hanging on the ropes and desperately counterpunching while his brains are being turned into a milkshake. Still, after the three years we've had I'm willing to accept any first quarter where we're still in the game and have kicked more than one goal as a victory no matter how many portents to evil there are floating around.
For now the only black clouds over us were the ones causing it to piss down in epic fashion, at which point Hawthorn instantly looked better. We needed the sun to come out again, and in true Melbourne fashion it not only did but with such a vengeance that you almost needed sunnies. I tried to make another omen of our forward 50 being completely in the shadows and theirs being half-half between shadow and sun but was clearly reaching for some way to convince myself we could win. As it was there was no point going into depth about the weather because it changed every five seconds anyway, and in between all this fluctuating weather and outright abuse of the Bureau of Meteorology Aaron Davey broke his leg. It was the first time a broken bone had effectively destroyed our season since Brock McLean necked himself in R1, 2007 - let's hope that Flash doesn't come back a shadow of himself and end up playing for Carlton like the other guy.
Without Davey we just lacked polish, somebody who you know is going to hit the target 90% of the time. We hung with them in spite of ourselves but even as we were all but level at half-time it still felt like Hawthorn were going to turn it up a notch and run over the top of us. Other than the first few minutes I never felt we were in control enough to put together a match winning lead, despite Hawthorn doing everything they could to keep us in it. It was a shit quality game between two sides playing for the right to bomb out of September in depressing fashion, but there were still highlights. Long time readers will have noted with some excitement the return of Wonaeamirri's character THE CELEBRATOR when he kicked his goal and followed it up with some sort of wild running windmill punch a'la Mike Tyson's Punch Out on the Nintendo. At the other end of the ground Frawley was smashing Franklin like a guitar and ensuring that if he doesn't at least get mentioned in final considerations for the All-Australian side the selection panel will receive the same sort of reception reserved for serial killers and umpires.
The cheap goals from frees started halfway through the quarter, and other than the Jurrahcane kicking what might very well be our goal of the year we were starting to get cut up around the ground and attempting to switch play needlessly and with no second option. Back to that goal, with apologies to Jamie Bennell who loses out due to the sort of goal he kicked against the Dogs being dime a dozen these days, the reason it was so good was the way Jurrah seemed to slow down and stop for a split second to size up just where he was going to place the thing. Most players would have just hacked it off the ground and it would have either slid left for a point or been intercepted by Gibson flying back on the line to defend it - but this time, making light of the fact that he'd busted his finger by not even bringing his hands into the calculation, LJ picked his spot and slotted it perfectly. Gibson (a man who, lest we forget, gets laid more per capita than any other player in the competition) gave a perfectly good despairing dive, but like a
That goal and one from Bruce got us back in it, but it still felt wrong. Every time it rained they started slicing and dicing us and there was no guarantee that it was going to remain dry for the rest of the day considering how it had changed from sunny to pissing down about 32 times already. Note how many times their players held overhead marks in the conditions. They dropped their fair share of absolute sitters too (see also Trengove, Jack in the goalsquare in the first quarter - thank god it sat for him to kick the goal anyway) but at least they were holding onto it when it mattered and not fumbling it around.
The only upside to the whole first half - other than the fact that we were still in the game despite being murdered in the clearances, contested possessions and inside 50's - was that I was sitting undercover and not having to run back and forth out of the rain like the people on the first row. Surely the first time you get rained on it's time to recognise that Melbourne's weather does not follow any particular logic and to move somewhere undercover? People did that, and then the moment the sun came out again they were off downstairs to get rained on for a second, third and fourth time. It's a footy game, not Man vs Wild - you do not have to sit in pouring rain wearing a garbage bag for protection. Nobody's going to think any less of you if you sit under a roof. After all some teams (*cough* St Kilda *cough*) have made a living out of never playing in the wet, then getting exposed when it rains during a game that really matters. I hope lessons are well and truly learnt from both this and the Bulldogs match on how to play wet weather footy because global warming might be on the way to fuck up the seasons and make it summer all year around but it won't be here to stuff up my dream of seeing a flag for at least a hundred years yet so there's plenty of time for playing games in the rain.
Amused at the wild chorus of boos for Kennett when they showed him on the screen looking emo. It's a bit rich for our fans to be giving it to a President for abusing his coach and team for being shit when that's pretty much all we've done for the last two years. Much like when James Hird got fined for hanging shit on that umpire and was booed by opposition fans the next week it made no sense. Especially bizarre considering that it was probably our fans who kept him office through two elections and that his treasurer was on our board. The MCC Members pavilion could rename itself the Karl Marx Pavilion and fly the hammer and sickle and you still wouldn't fool me that they're not going to line up en masse and vote for the Libs every time. I think it's more a case of recognising what a colossal, cracking meltdown he'd have suffered if they'd lost again and punting it home for comic value. If we'd won his secretary would probably have leapt from an upstairs window rather than have to type out his spray on Monday morning.
Speaking of spazzing out how about the Frawley deliberate? It's a good thing that Franklin felt guilty about it and decided to miss the lot because that was truly criminal. Compare and contrast to the first quarter when some brown and gold idiot slid along the ground and palmed the ball straight at the line on the members side wing. Didn't get paid, but soccer one out at the other end with some hulking great bloke two steps behind you and you get pinged. Just another goofy interpretation that didn't go our way - karmic payback at last for the 50m penalty fiesta we were on the receiving end of in the game against Essendon which started this improbable run towards the eight. Swings and roundabouts.
After having been beaten up in the centre during the second and still somehow managing to kick four goals we repeated the dose in the third, and yet somewhere still managed to be within touch at the last quarter. When we got two in a row through Watts (did nothing, would probably get dropped if he was anybody else. Will still be a gun, roll on 2011) and Jamar it seemed like we were back in with a sniff of a miracle. Shame Johnson got murdered in the centre because if we had a decent second ruckman The Russian would be a killer target in the forward line. For a guy who had racked up 0 kicks before his first shot at goal he's a bloody good set shot and a towering mark. Pity we can't afford to leave him down there too long lest we get ripped to shreds in the centre with Johnson/Spencer/[tall player with no ruck skills thrown in due to desperation] taking the bounces. Didn't really matter yesterday considering that even when he did get the taps we were getting belted out of there but in the interests of long term planning somebody had better fire up and give him a hand.
Now, no matter what else you take out of the third quarter - and god knows I've got a lot to say about Garland and his shitful kicking out of defence - where did the Franklin free against Frawley rate in the most frustrating moments of your life? Might not have been the worst decision ever, nothing can beat that goal umpire farce in the Geelong/Pies match, but it would have to be up there in all-time MFC related officiating debacles. The rudest thing about it was that it was at such a crucial time of the game. If it had happened when we were 50 points down in the last quarter you'd have raised an eyebrow and asked what the hell was going on but it wouldn't have mattered. As it was we were still in the mix and Chip had beaten Franklin in one-on-one duels all day (he still got plenty of ball up the ground, but what are you going to do to stop that other than smash him in the face with a sledgehammer?) but that was a pure and simple dagger in the back from the idiot in the middle. He got a real one just after but the damage was done. We were still close enough to make it interesting but the tide was rapidly turning in their favour, and when it started pouring again you might as well have put your house on the Hawks at $1.20.
Still, once again we managed to turn potential disaster into near glory. First Joel Mac got pinged for our second deliberately rushed behind of the season but luckily they once again felt guilty and completely missed it. It was an interesting call, like the one where Essendon got pinged earlier in the season I thought that to the letter of the law it was probably the right call - after all he did take a couple of steps back and wait for the opposition player to get right on top of him before he went back over the line but after the league came out and declared the first call wrong how can they possibly pay anything else similar? Jamar jumping up and pounding the ball through against St Kilda is one thing but this was a near carbon copy of the Essendon/Hawthorn (there's your common denominator) call and he got done for it. Rancid umpiring at a crucial time.
They got the goal that fairly well sealed it before Thank God It's Brad Green turned up for the first time since the first quarter to kick one on the run to bring it back to under two goals. Bartram could have got it within a goal and made it properly interesting but running inside 50 he clearly wanted to dish it off but decided to take the shot himself and missed, not that I could see shit from where I was standing. The old bird in front of me who had turned around specifically to deliver her thesis on how much she hated him during the third quarter must have had an aneurysm at that point. Hardly the guy I'd want kicking for goal on the run if my life was on the line though, so I'm not going to slaughter him for it. Still, would have helped considering they went down the other end and got the sealer pretty much straight afterwards. First all that stopped the Hawks from a mark in the square that would have killed the match was a desperate last minute spoil from Bail, but then from the throw-in absolutely nobody went near Burgoyne and he kicked the goal that finally and officially ended our season.
But wait, there was more. My blood pressure had already been pushed up to dangerous levels when the Watts kick from the square at the other end that would have opened it up again with enough time for a miracle looked like it had gone through and I almost leapt on top of a stranger only to find out it hit the point. Shameful outburst alert, that's when I lost it. Kicked the fence, knocked a cleaning sign across the bottom deck of the Ponsford and stormed out. Just then the rain decided to return to Hurricane Bertha levels and drench me but I didn't care. When Hodge kicked the last goal I let out a primal scream which scared some kid walking next to me. In retrospect the whole thing feels stupid, we should never have been there and between the second half in Brisbane, the first against Richmond and most of today it should be blatantly obvious to all that we don't belong in the finals yet - but how often does the 8th placed team deserve to be there? But on a grander scale to that round 2 Collingwood debacle I'd had something improbable and beautiful dangled in front of me then snatched away in cruel fashion. I'm an only child, how the hell do you want me to cope with that? It's no wonder I didn't just throw myself to the floor and start crying. Never go to ground anywhere that football fans having been standing for two hours, nothing good can come of it.
Thankfully the AFL in their infinite wisdom are set to increase the amount of sides in the finals so that we can have even more overmatched slop sides creep in and get smashed, so hopefully in a couple of years when we're playing some bizarre eight conference, 15 team finals series on the surface of Mars we might just sneak in.
We'll all have a red hot whinge about the umpires this week, and everyone will add their own comments about perceived payoffs, sexual favours or teabagging incidents but doesn't it strike you as concerning that some people legitimately believe that there are deliberate conspiracies against their team? Like the AFL and umpires, two of the most incompetent groups in the world today, could actually get it together to deliver a double-secret directive that, as some peanut near me started yelling, Melbourne shall be shafted in order to make way for the Hawks to play finals.
Now, don't you think that if it was a case of rorting the game to get one side into the finals specifically then we'd be a much better story for them to rally behind? Side comes from nowhere with a sick president to pull off a D2: The Mighty Ducks style feelgood story as the young, exciting side crashes into September calculations. Choose either that or a side with a ranting psychopath of a President, 45k three game members and the ongoing worst premiership defence since us 1965 and beyond. In the interests of ratings and general buzz I know which one I'd rather watch as a neutral. Wouldn't surprise me if they somehow managed to stuff up their "get the Demons into the 8" conspiracy due to the complete ineptitude of all involved, up to and including our own side.
As viewers of the Demonblog Twitter (now Justin Bieber free) would have seen, in graphic fashion, the residue of last week's big vom on the wall of Ponsford Stand Q33 was still there which is a fair testament to the care and dedication that the cleaning contractors take to looking after this iconic venue. Will probably still be there next season when I, like an idiot, choose to sit near it again.
No kids going the big chunder this week, but one behind us nearly got put into a headlock. Not only did the little prick think that Carl Petersen was Cyril Rioli for the first half (because society has obviously progressed so far that kids still think all people from the same race look the same) but he spent the whole first quarter delivering piercing screams at the top of his voice whenever the Hawks got the ball and smashed me in the back of the head with a bloody flag. I'm a fairly tolerant person (!?) but at point when wooden stick met skull I had to turn around and ask him to take more care, only to receive death glares from his dad. How can you be so insular and stupid to not even notice when your children are annoying the shit out of everyone? (but more importantly me) These are the same sort of people who fawn over their ugly babies as being the most beautiful thing on earth and go on TV to tell the world that their son was "a nice boy who wouldn't hurt anyone" after he's run through Chadstone shopping centre with an AK-47.
On the other end of the age spectrum was the two grannies in front of us, one of whom was the aforementioned president of the "Fuck off Clint Bartram" fan club. The other one was far more placid and barely said a word, possibly because she was scared shitless of her insane friend. Maybe it was the culture of fear that caused her friend to sit there terrified and silent, making the president of the FOCB club turn around and start discussing the game with me instead. I hate it when that happens. If I'd wanted to have random chats with post-middle age women there are (probably) internet sites which cater for that, don't think that because we're sitting in the same vicinity and wearing the same colours that we're going to be mates.
For the last quarter, abandoned by all and sundry who decided on an early afternoon, I went downstairs and made the horrific mistake of going into one of the standing areas at the back of the bottom deck of the Ponsford. Everybody knows that the sort of people who hang around in those areas are usually insane, socially retarded, on parole or worthy of being attached to a washing machine and thrown into Port Phillip Bay but it looked empty and the quarter was about to start so I went in there and stood up the back. Not thirty seconds later seven or eight pure arseholes showed up en masse and stood right in front of, or to the very left of me. All Hawthorn, all clearly amused to have one of them in their midst. Cue barely concealed abuse which I could half hear due to having headphones in.
Then for some reason the section of spazzers I was in started to get into a "chant off" with some MFC fans just to the left of us (where chant ='s shouting *team name* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* like an 8-year-old) and the guy next to me basically started yelling it in my face from the side trying to provoke some reaction. Wasn't going to get anything, but I knew that no matter what happened at the end it was going to be ugly. Either we were going to get done and I'd have to do a walk of shame through them, or we were going to get up and I'd get filled in for celebrating too boisterously. When Green kicked his goal I was out of there. Discretion is the better part of valour when you're prone to verbal gaffes and/or inappropriate outright abuse like I am. There are plenty things worth being punched in the head or having to leap over a fence for and footy is certainly not one of them. Maybe a Grand Final or a prelim?
Went over to where the section of our fans from the chant-off were and the rest was history. Apologies to the guy who was standing behind me when I booted the fence and turned around to walk-off. That was a completely inadvertent shirtfront which I delivered on you, and had you not been the only person other than me in standing room who wasn't drinking beer like a total pisshead it might have been ugly for all concerned.
2010 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 - Cameron Bruce
4 - James Frawley
3 - Colin Sylvia
2 - Jordie McKenzie
1 - Rohan Bail
Apologies to Scully, McDonald, Macdonald, Jamar and Rivers.
38 - Brad Green
37 - James Frawley (WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
27 - Mark Jamar (WINNER: Strawbs O'Dwyer Medal for Ruckman of the Year), 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 - Tom Scully, Cameron Bruce, Brent Moloney, Lynden Dunn, Jordie McKenzie
8 - Jordan Gysberts
7 - Joel Macdonald
5 - 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, Rohan Bail
Another blockbusting Port crowd of 102 turn up watch us stuff it up in Adelaide for the ninth consecutive year. During the week the AFL trumpeted that their stupid rule innovations, put to an allegedly 'public' vote had achieved support from a 'quarter of respondents' or as the rest of us know it '3/4 of people hated it. If you want to adopt a similar head-in-sand look at Season 2010 there is still a possibility that we can make the 8. What's the point though? The season has been a success by anybody's measure, there's really no point pumping ridiculous scenarios into ladder predictors to try and force our way in (I just spent the last ten minutes doing just that though I must admit..)
If something outrageous happens in the next two weeks - and just wait for Hawthorn to beat the Collingwood reserves in R22 when top spot is sewn up - then rip out the champers bottles and let's get trashed/line up for finals tickets but otherwise just ride out the next couple of weeks and hope we can at least put some platform down for next year by winning a bloody game at Football Park. Serves us (me?) right for getting my hopes up anyway. Let this be a lesson to you kids, never be positive about anything.
Was it worth it?
Get to shite. Last few weeks were fun though. In a sick way doesn't it feel good that a loss really hurts again?