So, that was your first taste of football for 2011. How was it for you? Hardly moving stuff that would make you instantly go out and throw ten g’s on us making the eight, but solid, encouraging stuff and a pair of victories. In Adelaide of all places. The experience was soured by the AFL’s attempt to play some sort of rock 'n roll format to get 'the kids' involved which fell flat on its face, but don't think that we’ve seen the last of it.
Also key in ruining any excitement about the start of the season was the Z-List commentary team consisting of 80’s turncoat Healy and present day space cadets Shaw and Russell. Then just when you thought it had gotten so bad in the booth that surely they’d have to do something sensible like throw Leigh Colbert to the bench we get Liam farking Pickering instead. You know full well that when Healy is the top performer on your coverage then you’re in more trouble than the proverbial early settlers.
Wasn't it good to see the punters of Greater Adelaide coming out in their hundreds for the night as well? Offered the choice between a crucial A-League clash at the Adelaide Oval or three hours of Football For Idiots that the AFL can later use dubious research to foist on us in the regular season, it seems the town voted with their feet and chose the other version of football instead.
And why wouldn't you? Apart from, you know actually going to watch the club you purport to be a 'supporter' of. Usually an AFL match losing to an A-League match in the importance stakes would be the cue for various ponytailed marketing types at AFL headquarters to start leaping out of windows but they've introduced such a whored out version of football for first round of this competition that it's no surprise that people get peaky about trekking out to the South Australian equivalent of a stadium opposite Fountain Gate to watch inconsequential crap. "If you were a football fan then you'd be here" said Neil Craig in a pre-match interview. Looked very much to me like nobody in Adelaide actually gave a shit.
How the AFL must be rubbing their hands together at the prospect of the Adelaide Oval makeover delivering them a 50,000 seat stadium in the city proper. I imagine Football Park to be like watching sports in East Germany or Albania, just a structure thrown wherever it would fit with no thought to comfort or amenity. Sort of like Waverley but not thoughtfully demolished at the turn of the century.
I'm just assuming that it was the Adelaide fans who didn't bother to show up, every single Port supporter might have been there and you wouldn't have known. As for our fans I wouldn't be surprised if all MFC supporters west of Horsham hadn't already thrown their hands to the sky in disgust and screamed "ENOUGH" having watched the tripe we've served up over there in the last decade.
So, the format that was going to reinvigorate football as we know it;
* Three teams play each other once. Top team goes through to the quarters along with the two best second placed teams. Anybody know what the tiebreakers are? Anyone actually care?
Basically it's fitting 18 teams into a format which still provides four games in the second round. It's imaginative, I'll give them that, but would have been much easier if they'd taken Gold Coast, West Sydney, West Coast and Brisbane and made them play qualifying games for being so shit last year. Of course that wouldn't give the league the chance to try and workshop a format which they're probably gagging to bring back next year.
Just get all the teams in the same place at the same time, call it the World Sevens, invite Tonga and be done with it. Dreadful.
* Two x 20m halves. It just feels dirty even referring to a half unless it's made up of two quarters. Time on didn't start until the arbitrary mark of 17:30. Do they actually have meetings to discuss this stuff?
* Last player to touch the ball going out of bounds gets a free kick against them. An utter disaster that didn't even look good on paper.
* The usual pre-season garbage rules like nine point goals and three points for a rushed behind.
So, rubbish rules, rubbish commentators and a ground we haven't won at since before Federation. What could possibly go wrong? Well for a start there was the sexy new pink jumper. That'll really get the kids on board and send us straight to the top of the membership table. Still, if Hawthorn can get 50,000 members despite looking like they're wearing an unkempt toilet then I suppose it doesn't really matter does it? Apparently there was some problem at the source and "redder" jumpers are on the way. That's what happens when your playing kit is manufactured by Cambodian slave labour.
Game 1 - Some people call me the Space Cowboy, some people call me Dwayne
So, the first minute of the first game of the first year of our latest era of greatness and the more things change the more they stay the same. Crows kick a point, Grimes picks the ball up to kick in and the poor bastard looks up to find every one of his teammates blanketed by an opponent. In a move torn from the first half of 2010 textbook he went for the get-out kick to Jamar at half-back flank and it would have worked too if it wasn't for that pesky umpire.
Considering we haven't had a free player from a kick-in since 2002 it was the best we could hope for. I calmed myself by believing that if it had been Travis Johnstone he'd have booted it to an Adelaide player 30m out straight in front.
It went back inside 50 from the free and the theme of the night was set as the Crows stuffed up a goal. Rinse and repeat for the next 90 minutes.
The first utter cock-up involving the new rules came when Grimes had the ball slapped into his leg, sending it out of bounds on the full under anybody's rules but the learned umpires came together and couldn't decide whether it was 'decisive or not' and threw it in instead. That's exactly what this game needs, another rule that is completely subjective and up to the umpires to make a split second decision with 40,000 mutants (or 300 if you're at a Port game) screaming obscenities at them. Holding the ball is a necessity but we've got enough problems with deliberate out-of-bounds and latterly deliberate rushed behinds so for god's sake have some thought for the mental health of the umpires before forcing them into making more decisions based on guesswork.
Dear AFL rules committee, marketing department and various other crack smoking freaks. Before introducing 'trial rules' and hiding behind the fact that they're "just trials" stop for a second, put the pipe down and ask yourself "Does this improve the game?" Of course it doesn't, of course you're not going to bring it in for real so why bother? You know, like that substitute rule where they had to sit there in a silly singlet until called to come on. Wasn't that stupid? Wait, what do you mean that's in the regular season this year. What happens if the person being subbed off is carried off on a stretcher with a broken collarbone, do you still get fined if they can't get the red singlet over his compound fracture? I can see hours and hours of these type of shenanigans taking place as they tried to get the singlet on.
In true MFC at Football Park tradition we didn't go across half way for the first five minutes, and even when we did we fucked it up royally. All the while as we fumbled around the half-back flank looking every inch the shit team we've been for four years the Fox Sports effects microphones gave us the sound of somebody, presumably an umpire, panting like he was on the job in a 70's porno. I thought it was just their draft coverage that had the production values of a Channel 31 show but apparently not. If it wasn't for their commitment to showing games that a handful of people care about they'd be for the tip.
I was still screaming obscenities about the new rules at the television in my sordid little grief hole when against all odds the very same rules delivered us our first goal of the year. A shite kick from a Crows defender whose name I do not know nor care to ever learn sliced across the defensive 50 and out of bounds where the Stefan Martin Experience was awarded the free. Last year he might have shanked the ball straight out of bounds and looked a bit of a goose but this time he drilled a pinpoint straight onto Emo Maric's chest and in a shock, unforseen result the most depressed man in league football wheeled around and booted it. He still failed to raise a smile though. I can just see him being awarded his Brownlow and just walking off on Bruce McAvaney to go to the bathroom and cry silently.
The Crows kept missing, and Watts got the second as a gift after the Crows managed their own stuff up of a kick-in after Jurrah's early contender for behind of the year. That's behind as in one point, but if you've been checking out his cheeks feel free to send in a review. The man with the cast iron buttocks then delivered a pinpoint pass onto Green's chest for the third of the day and by christ we actually had a lead of some variety in the state of South Australia.
Could have been even more if Davey hadn't tried a checkside roll through from 20m out when he could have just blasted it, but we got just reward 20 seconds later anyway after the Crows stuffed up kicking inside 50 again - this time putting it out on the full under anybody's rules - and the Jurrahcane slotted one of his casual, half leg lift goals. Was it too good to be true or are the Crows just shit? When you consider that it was Richard Tambling who kicked the thing out on the full in the first place I think the answer is fairly clear.
Given that we'd been battered from pillar to post for the first five minutes of the game and that we usually struggle to score three goals in a real half of football it was a great result to be three in front at the first break. No bloody use if we threw it away in the second half/quarter/chukkah/period/stanza/century AD/whatever though, and you could see how seriously Neil Craig was taking it by playing some 14-year-old that he'd probably drafted from Romania on titans like Green and Jurrah.
The second half started in pretty much exactly the same fashion as the first, with the Crows dominant and keeping the ball locked inside fifty. "This'd be for nine!" shouted Russell as a badly skewed Van Berlo snap landed five metres out of bounds on the full. Then a few seconds later while replaying that shot which they'd been assured by their star commentator had gone so close to scoring maximum points Fox managed to miss a big grab because they were showing a replay. Goal and with the wind against us it was beginning to look a lot like a choke was on the cards.
It took until the second half for the commentary team of idiots to realise how ridiculous and shit the boundary line rule was, even if non-committal Shaw refused to say he hated it and tried to find some benefits just so he wouldn't get taken off the AFL Christmas card list. Get with community standards Tone, I'm going to suggest that without asking one person or reading any forums anywhere that 99.9% of people will hate the rule and will never want to see it again. Now hold your breath for Demetriou to bring out some dodgy research about testicle injuries 1985-2005 to justify bringing it in permanently.
For the second time that night the Crows threw everything at us but couldn't put the game away. Everything they'd battled for was wasted when they stuffed it up in the backline again and My Chemical Maric got his second. There was even hint of smile, but he quickly realised and went back to being stony faced and serious.
With seven minutes left and the Crows 17 points behind Russell delivered another zinger by yelling - and doesn't he just yell a lot for no reason? - "Adelaide still believe they can win here!" What a tedious Big Book O'Cliches thing to say. I think I'd almost rather pay to fly to every interstate game this year than listen to him. Can Fox please provide a commentators roster so I know when he'll be on and can be lobotomised accordingly?
Maric's goal should have ended it all - for the game that is, don't get any ideas son - but we let the filthy bastards back into it and they kicked a goal to cut the margin to ten with just over five minutes left. A cheap free on Garland, pretty much our best until then, gave them a chance but old mate shanked it the margin was nine, which as we were reminded just as many times as we were about the new rules "for those of you who have just tuned in" that it would take just one "supergoal" to level the scores. Many thanks for that detailed explanation, they've only been playing these rules since 2003 you know.
We went forward again but poor Emo Maric tried to chip and chase one down the line and booted it out of bounds only for the Crows to mess up in the backline AGAIN. Jurrah almost kicked the sealer after a huge smother (IS THERE NOTHING THIS MAN CANNOT DO?) but even his miss extended the margin to ten points and we were all but home. This is the point where I started to get nervous for the first time all year. You can (almost) handle losing to a late goal if you were four points in front but copping two is like being knifed in the back and the front as well for good measure.
Set your watch it'll happen to us sometime this year, but tonight mercifully was not the night. Jamar tackled a Crow out of bounds, nobody knew what was going on but somehow we got a free out of it to run the clock down far enough to be assured of the win. We should have had another one inside 50 but of course the umpires confused themselves and couldn't decide who touched it last and called for a throw-in.
Didn't matter, we'd won anyway but it was one of countless examples of why the people who decided that it was a good rule should be shot. Don't give me any of this shit how they used to do it in the 40's either, in the same era in the VFA you could do a rugby style flick pass and I don't see anybody trying to bring that back. (Newsflash - AFL decides to introduced Flick Pass rule but you can only use it in the third quarter between round 3 and 5 if the game is played on a Sunday and you are in the middle of a substitute powerplay or have more than 51% of your club members in the ground at the time and they're wearing officially licensed AFL merchandise as purchased at Rebel Sport).
So, it meant absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things and I refuse to declare the Football Park curse dead yet but somehow we have finally won a game of some variety at the place for the first time in nearly ten years. All well and good but did we really need to hear the theme song for it?
5 - Colin Garland
4 - Stefan Martin
3 - Mark Jamar
2 - Liam Jurrah
1 - Jack Grimes
Apologies to Maric, Trengove, Moloney and god knows who else. Watts was ok, but he's beyond the point where I'm going to spend every week analysing his performances for signs of a future Hall Of Fame induction. If he turns out to be a gun then let the good times roll, otherwise let's just take what we can get. Des Headland was a #1 who won a premiership, and if he can do it then so can anybody other than Clive Waterhouse or Richard Lounder.
As for the rookies Nicholson can clearly get a kick - and don't you just love seeing somebody going around in #49? - but didn't use it well, which you can excuse him for a first run in senior company. Tell you what, if he comes out and announces that he'll wear #49 for life then he'll be my new favourite player. Sorry SME, just as the #34 jumper looks like it might come out of retirement I will boot you out again if somebody declares a lifelong allegience to any number above 45.
Game 2 - Good grief, that was unexpected
So, one win in Adelaide achieved. Surely we were never going to fire up and pull out two in a row. Even if it was against Port who are, frankly, shite.
Our boys were clearly stuffed at the end of the first game so it was hard to tell whether they'd have an advantage coming off a 20 minute break against the Power having already been out there or whether they'd carry on as per the first game and then fall in a gigantic heap late in the piece.
The Spencil started in the ruck after being a sub in the first game but it was far too much to ask for to get some actual indication about who he replaced. I assumed Jamar because the SME somehow wound up at back where the Experience was born in defence but then we went forward and the Russian was there. You work it out. Nevermind, thank god Jamar was there because it was a ball spilt from his attempted mark that gave Trengove the chance to kick the opener. Beautifully taken goal too, and proof that you shouldn't put all your gun young player eggs in the one basket.
I'd forgotten filthy porno mo Dunn was out there given that he didn't get a touch in the first game, but when he bobbed up to kick our second Pickering made sure to feign like he'd never seen it before and talk it up like it was the best thing ever. Fox Sports are clearly your connection for the latest and greatest in AFL news and trends.
Proof that Jack Grimes is a rare genius came when he cut off Daniel Motlop's attempt to roll one through from 40m out. Even before the ball went onto his boot Grimes knew exactly what he was going to do and got down to rush it through. Shame then that about five seconds later Strauss made an idiot of himself by thumping the ball straight out of bounds and copping a free which Port somehow worked into a nine point goal. God knows how they did it, once again the build-up was missed because we were still getting a slow-mo replay of something that didn't need to be seen in slow-mo. I'd like to think he was deliberately resisting the rule because it's stupid but let's be realistic, he just cocked it up.
We were shit in the first half but we had our chances, especially when the Port player to do a Strauss and take the ball out to give Jamar a shot from the pocket - which he proceeded to boot straight out on the full. It was only when Bate kicked the Porno Dunn-esque clutch goal and cut the margin to four after the half-time siren that we actually looked any danger to win. Is it just me or does he always look completely baffled? Same with Garland who doesn't look like he'd change expression if he was dangled over an active volcano.
So, four points down and kicking with an alleged wind in the second half we should have run away with it right? Well no, this is Melbourne we're talking about here. All of a sudden Port are going inside fifty every twenty seconds and if Westhoff, still a dead ringer for the stoner from Scooby Do, had managed to move his floppy hair out of his eyes for two seconds and kick straight we'd have been in all sorts of trouble. They did it again not long after and it was starting to get embarassing. We should have been kicked out of both games but Port were just as inept in front of their own goal as the Crows had been in front of ours.
Despite having the wind our forward line looked a bit naff. Tom McDonald (T-Mac II: Citizens On Patrol) got subbed on but didn't do much other than almost shephard Davey's 9/1pter through. That was the only half decent chance we had for the first ten minutes until Sylvia missed one just on the stroke of ten minutes after some wildman football from The Jurrahcane down the bench where he made a mockery of the boundary line rule by just running down it with no care or attention for the prospect of the ball going out.
It took a Watts pack mark for first set shot of the half, and even though he slotted it to put us in front the lead was still looking highly dubious. Especially considering that he should never have been on the end of the kick in the first place. The Spencil took a free and somehow managed to avoid his quick kick into the middle of the ground being intercepted by about 1mm. He'll claim it as a gun pass but when you kick with an action like that everything that works is a fluke.
Suddenly, as if lifted by The Spencil's touch of magic, we turned the game on its head and were the better team. It all ended in a two on one where Green spilled it only for THE JURRAHCANE to pick up, keep the ball in and snap over his shoulder to put us eight points in front. HIT THE BOUNDARY! Wait, don't.
With time running out and their 19 fans roaring their little hearts out Port were repelled by a magic, possibly game saving, mark by Garland who went back underneath the ball with it swirling around in the wind. A lesser man would have fallen on his arse and conceded the goal. Casual Col says no to such defeatist behaviour.
Somehow Bate and Jetta stuffed up the chance to kick at least a point and completely seal the job but when Port went forward again, with a minute left and still time for another a goal against a bunch as flaky as us, Garland did it again. He's no Frawley but bloody hell he looks in good touch at the moment.
Mission accomplished, hello Quarter Finals without having to worry about what happened in the third game or more importantly having to worry about playing on knee destroying ovals in Morwell.
Against my better judgement I stayed watching for the Port/Adelaide game - on mute - and it was absolutely vile. I thought Port had done a lot better than Adelaide against us and provided a tougher challenge but they just put the cue in the rack and got smashed with no care or concern for the fact that two second place teams go through to the next round. Had a touch of the Paul Roos about it I thought. Let's hope that they're rewarded for their effort by being sent to play in Bunbury next week.
5 - Colin Sylvia
4 - Jack Grimes
3 - Aaron Davey
2 - Neville Jetta
1 - Jack Watts
Paul Prymke Plate for Pre-Season Performance Leaderboard
10 – Colin Sylvia
5 - Jack Grimes
5 - Colin Garland
4 - Stefan Martin
4 – Rohan Bail
3 – Tom Scully
3 - Aaron Davey
3 - Mark Jamar
2 – James Strauss
2 - Liam Jurrah
2 - Neville Jetta
1 – Jared Rivers
1 - Jack Watts
So, what else is happening?
There's a new team in West Sydney next year you know? Watch out with your offensive comments about what a hole in the ground shitbox place it is or you'll end up like Eddie McGuire and have poodle haired, gap teethed housewives from Blacktown calling you names on a poorly put together Channel 10 news story. More on THAT scandal later.
On the injury front I'm shattered that I managed to jinx Morton by mentioning him and his injury free pre-season. After he finally put 6kg's on, making him weigh slightly more than your average supermodel, I was dying to see him out there throwing some South Australian idiots around like rag dolls. Still, at least he's not going to miss half the season this year. If he's back by Round 3 or 4 then he'll be ok. At least he can can keep running and doing everything that doesn't involve a digit. Still, lucky none of his brothers are any good or his position as the leader of the Morton Brotherhood would be in some strife.
Scull and Crossbones
Didn't play tonight, apparently the knee soreness is legit and not just an attempt to take the heat from the vulture media off for a while.
The last thing I want is for Demonblog to become the (virtual) paparazzi sitting outside his door a'la the Warne/Hurley bonkfest waiting for the merest slither of information to come out so I can beat it up into a half-story which causes internet forums everywhere to explode in a shower of sparks. Why steal Hutchy's job when he does it so well? So, pending any further actual and real developments this is my feeling on the scandal so far.
I don't think he's signed already but he'd be insane not to be seriously considering it. You can pontificate until the cows come home about all the reasons why he'd want to stay with us but millions of dollars will be a fairly convincing argument the other way. What there is to keep him with us will have to stack up fairly high to match the lure of being filthy rich at 20-years-old. We can mock West Sydney, and believe me I intend to at some length, and question why somebody would want to live there but the fact of the matter is that if you've got enough money then it doesn't matter where you live. He'll be behind walls in some mansion on the sort of money that's being bandied about, not living in Motel Formule 1 Campbelltown.
So, I think he'll go eventually but it's going to be painful to have to sit through the drama all year. Hopefully now that there's actual football to talk about the media might try that for once. Now, I may be the only person to feel this way but I'd have far more respect for him if he came out and said that he was going but would wait to sign until the end of the year. Then we get a great year out of him and he only leaves as a moderately evil cash crazy figure. On the other hand if we get jerked around all year and lied to Ablett style when everybody knows which way it's going to go only for him to feign "process" and a "big decision" I'll be furious and he'll cop heaps as a J**d style figure of evil.
My feeling is if he doesn't sign by Queen's Birthday then he's never going to and we may as well make him a final, maximum offer, take it or leave it. If the answer is no or "err, I need more time" then don't play him. As a great man once explained politics to me, "fit in or fuck off". It would be a crushing blow to lose him but it's not the end of the world. Plenty of great players have put together magic, award winning careers and won absolutely fark all while Shane Ellen has kicked five in a Grand Final won a flag. BUT if it turns out we're all just being cheated he'll start 2012 as the biggest heel since King Kong Bundy at Wrestlemania II.
Two weeks time in fact. One of St Kilda, Essendon or Brisbane. Presumably it'll be the Saints and for christ sake if that happens can you please come up with some decent obscenities to hurl at their players? We all know some of them porked a schoolgirl, we've all seen the captain's dodger and one of their forwards may have once been investigated for heinous sex crimes but try to come up with something original.
It's great to have footy back, but for god's sake can we just play it normally from now?