Clearly sensing my epic distress and potential for going the big V.O.M for the M.F.C in the seconds before the first bounce my mother was kind enough to bust out some sort of mysterious calming lozenge. Not sure it was entirely legal, and it may have been imported into the country next to somebody's large intestine, but what a day for it. I will be bringing that stuff into the country by the container load for the rest of the season.
Perhaps it wasn't the gear that calmed me down, perhaps it was the startling array of gimmicks that were going on before the match. There was Nick McCallum standing in Lionel Richie's spot interviewing David Neitz and replaying the footage of him destroying Luke McCabe's career over and over against like it was September 11, there was that poon in his velvet jacket playing acid jazz versions of the theme song and then for some reason we raised a flag as if we'd won a premiership.
For those of you who are have just entered the Australian mainland after being detained at Christmas Island I can assure you that we didn't win a premiership last season, the year before that or any time since I was negative 17 years old. So why act like we had? Hoisting the club flag is all very well and good but it's a poor subsitute for actual success. Not for the first - or last - time I suffered immense MFC cultural cringe from the whole exercise.
I'll tell you what I did like from the pre-match shenanigans and that was the sight of Jim Stynes looking in rude health. He shocks me every time. Pretty soon everybody who is diagnosed with cancer will be drinking a frothy beaker of their own emissions and whacking a tube up the chocbox while being filmed because it doesn't appear to have done him anything but good. If Jim wants to hoist flags like he's on an old time ship then I'll stand back and let him do it. If he wants to come around to my house and eat the contents of my fridge he can do that as well. If he wants to have a crack at Ms. Demonblog then... well he is a great man.
Playing the Swans in the first game was a blessing and a curse. They're a good side - let's not forget they missed playing in a prelim by five points - but not so good that we were going to get pounded (or bored into submission if the Saints were involved). BUT we were always going to judge ourselves harshly against when we smashed them last year. Hard to know how to take that performance in retrospect, we lasted another week on top of the world before falling to pieces and they stormed into the finals.
It pays to treat that game as an anomaly and ignore the way we treated them with contempt, and if today is held in isolation with nothing to judge it against bar our wonky pre-season, then I'm as happy as one can possibly be coming out of a game where you didn't win.
There were still some major issues, the first being that somebody we'd ended up sitting in front of one of those people who shows up at a game on their own and decides to talk to the people sitting around them. Sadly nobody else was sitting around him so we copped the whole thing. "Look at how big Jesse White has gotten" he turned around and said before the opening bounce. "Oh yeah, huge" I replied despite absolutely zero idea/interest as to what White looks like or what number he is. To make it clear that I wasn't there for random chit chat with the public I proceeded to put headphones in. Didn't stop him but at least on the third or fourth time I had to take the 'phones out and ask him to repeat he got the idea that we weren't going to end the day as Facebook friends.
On-field there were issues as well. Early on it looked like nobody had any interest in getting within the same postcode as Adam Goodes, the likes of Davey/Moloney/Jones couldn't get near it and it was abundantly clear that our forward line structure was, and is, still flawed.
The poor Jurrahcane could barely get a decent kick towards him for the first half, Emo Maric was being all depressed and - frankly - not very good (in a performance befitting any player who has suddenly found me calling them my favourite) and Green was spending most of his time up the ground. It's no wonder that we had to rely on so many goals coming out of the midfield, but that's not an issue as long as you can keep it up - certainly doesn't hurt Collingwood to have a wide spread. If you can somehow conjure two goals out of Simon Buckley (3 in 21 games for us) then you're operating on a different plane to the rest of the competition.
We were getting killed out of the middle but I refuse point blank to accept that it was Jamar's fault. More like he was doing everything right and nobody else could get near it. Luckily Moloney clicked into gear and played in an incredible second half out of the centre, because early on it looked like we were going to walk meekly to our deaths.
Eventually Davey and Jones got themselves into it as well as the game went on thank christ, but neither of them was dominant and Flash somehow managed to get himself reported for some half arsed bump on a charge that will be rapidly withdrawn or thrown out by the MRP.
When we went two goals down at the start I began to sweat up a bit. The combination of Goodes doing as he liked and the domination of the Swans out of the centre rendered all the medicinal remedies in the world absolutely useless as visions of a heinous first round massacre where we kicked three goals started to flash before my eyes. After all we've cocked up the first game before - every year for the last five years in-fact.
Somehow we managed to hang with them until quarter time. Dunn snapped one of his arse/ridiculous facial growths for our first and 30 Seconds To Maric made his key contribution for the day by throwing a handball over the top to Green before Sylvia got himself into the game with a hefty roost from outside 50. Not more than a few minutes before Col, recipient of a classic media beat-up to start his year, had tried to do the unselfish thing and pass to Jurrah inside 50 but it wasn't the right option. When he won the free kick the next time directly in front he realised that he's thumped goals from exactly the same spot at the City End before and went back to bang one through from two steps inside the centre square.
From there on we just seemed to be just that little bit behind them and unlikely to roll back the deficit. Sure, we were absolutely fisted by the umpires in the first quarter but there was still a cavalcade of dumb decisions going inside 50 and Swans players running around on their own with nobody near them at the other.
On the upside the Stefan Martin Experience was playing out of his skin from one end to the other and Tapscott was enjoying the best R1 debut from a Demon since Kyle Cheney in '07, but I was just waiting for Jamar to fall apart from the grind of playing a lone hand in the centre. The SME only took a couple of centre bounces but he more than justified his spot in the starting 21 with end-to-end football that would be never be described as "slashing" a'la Brad Green but did exactly what it was supposed to do.
He didn't do much when he went forward (which was no use for those of us who had backed him @ 87-1 for the first goal) but that was ok because down back he was exactly the player who made me throw him number onto my jumper two years ago and cop two years of shit for it. He held marks, he threw his body around and he generally used the ball well. There was one time that he tried to kick across the ground and bounced it off his ankle but the sort of day he was having he got away with it. I've got my concerns that he can do it every week, but as far as a second big man there just in case it all goes wrong for the Russian he'll do me nicely at least until we work out whether Robert Campbell is ever going to play a match or Max Gawn and his gigantic metal teeth start causing damage.
Tapscott was exactly as I'd have wanted him to be based on what I'd seen of him in the pre-season. It's all well and good to be hitting perfect 50m passes out of the backline against Brisbane at Princes Park in front of 27 people but it doesn't mean you're going to be any good when it comes to the crunch. I once saw Isaac Weetra play a half decent match in Bendigo and we all know how that ended. But Tappy, owner of the biggest neck since James Frawley, was sublime. He took contested marks, he threw tackles, he hit targets and deep in the last quarter he flattened the irritating Rhys Shaw. Also please note that it was his gigantic roost into the goalsquare in the last quarter that ended up delivering the goal for Green which put us ahead. I'm in love.
The difference between Cheney getting maximum votes in his debut and Tappy's performance today was that the Brock Lesnar lookalike just racked up a million touches in a shit team because everyone he was playing with was utterly useless. Tapscott might not get maximum votes because he had many times better players around him today but his performance screamed star. Getting nominated for Rising Star in the first round is the hardest time of the year to get it because there are about 200 people debuting but he'd have to at least come under consideration. Shut the gate on the Jeff Hilton Rookie Of The Year award because he's probably won it already.
At half-time, as a future Melbourne draftee gave up interest in the Little League game and sat down in the forward pocket while the game went on around him, it seemed fairly clear to me that the key to us getting on top of them was to shut down Goodes and get some love in the forward line. Watts did a couple of nice things, but not a great deal else and Jurrah was still crying out for some decent service. We couldn't risk Jamar down there for more than a few minutes at a time and both Davey and Jetta were doing too much elsewhere to throw them down there.
We got one of the two, so I guess a draw is a fair enough result. Dunn and Jurrah added another couple between them but it was the midfield who kicked the goals to drag us back into it. The Swans skipped away early but Garland did an epic shutdown job on Goodes from half-way through the quarter to all but take him out of the match. When Moloney, all of a sudden the greatest clearance player ever born, walked through the half the Swans list both past and present to kick a long goal it looked like we were back into it but as would happen so many times for the day - and for the last decade - we ruined all the good work of battling to kick a goal by letting them go straight out of the centre and boot one at the other end.
When the margin blew out to the best part of four goals nearing the end of the quarter I was prepared for the worst. It took that magic run and goal from Bennell to drag us back into it - an early contender for Goal of the Year, which doesn't count for much right now - and give us some chance of nicking it in the last quarter.
Neither team had used their sub yet (and just writing that makes my skin crawl) and we pulled the trigger first by handing the Maric the red vest and razor blades and bringing Petterd on. They stuck with sitting Seaby on an exercise bike, just waiting to unleash a fresh ruckman on Jamar when he reached physical rock bottom. Unfortunately for John Longmire he obviously hasn't seen the video of Jamar against Port and Collingwood last year when he single handedly carried the entire side over the line (or at least onto the line in the case of the Pies draw) and nearly died of exhaustion at the final siren. He is made of iron a'la Ivan Drago.
And what an impact Petterd had. The only shame was that we had to wait for three full quarters to elapse before he got an opportunity. Maybe it's a good thing for somebody so injury prone as he is and might extend his career by years but it's shit for football but more on that later. Ricky set up Dunn's first goal of the quarter and then had a shot of his own. Good start but his miss was the start of a cavalcade of blown opportunities to win. Watts, Jurrah, Green, Bennell and Jamar all missed gettable chances but at least Green and Jurrah made up for it by getting it right later on. I can accept the Russian missing his kick, even though it was from about 20m out directly in front to put us in front, because the poor bastard was probably about to pass out from exhaustion.
Thank god then, as we always say, for Brad Green. I'm not convinced having him further up the field is the best use of his talents but he was in the right place at the right time to slam through a six pointer after Tapscott's long bomb to the square. Even better considering he'd been off during the quarter after dislocating his finger. Luckily for him his legs managed to get on the same side of the goalpost after he soccered it through, because he was in serious danger of dislocating his testicles at one point when he got boot to ball in mid-air.
We were in front for the first time all day but every single Melbourne fan knows that trying to defend a lead with five minutes to go is almost the most nerve-wracking disastrous thing we can be involved with. Look at the Bulldogs game on Friday night last year, look at Queen's Birthday, seek urgent psychological treatment. The Swans were always going to go forward and we were treated to them battering us inside 50 for the last three minutes of the game. Reminded me a bit of the Brisbane '08 match where the Lions spent the last minute camped out in front of our goal waiting to stooge us before we got away with it courtesy of Aussie Wonaeamirri legging it up the Members side wing.
I honestly thought we were done for with the multiple bounces and throw-ins right in front of our goal. Our kick-ins had been ok all day (even if the second kick was often iffy) but you wouldn't stake your life on them clearing the ball effectively at any time. When the first point went through I instantly thought draw. We couldn't clear it after that and for some reason the Swans refused to force a point through to level the scores. They had so many opportunities, and knowing that they'd have 18 players waiting for us to cock-up the kickout it might have been a better option.
Eventually after what seemed like about two hours but was actually a minute they got the equalising point - and let me tell you while it was in mid-air there was no calming lozenge that could have kept my heartbeat down - and our last roll of the dice found Nifty Nev Jetta on the Southern Stand side wing with nobody in front of him. Discretion was the better part of valour and he ran down the clock for the draw.
I'll take it. Nobody likes hearing the MCG doing their 'hilarious' postmodern gag of playing No Second Prize after a tie but it could have been worse. We've got a decent platform to build on for the next few weeks and players to come back. Two points good, four points better, no points shithouse.
So, now let's talk about these shithouse new rules.
I can at least see some benefit to the concussion rule. It seems heavy handed to just flat out ban people when they've passed every test known to man but at least you can argue it's for the welfare of the players. Forget the fact that men like Ron Barassi spent fifteen years getting punched in the head and have lived long, fruitful lives, forget the fact that the statistics that they pull out about NFL players having worse life expectancy than people who live in Swaziland and just go along with it to keep the medical fraternity happy.
I thought I heard somewhere that the doctors were the ones who wanted the new rule but it seems a bit of a slap in the face to them to suggest that they weren't looking after player welfare before. As they often do it was Hawthorn who stuffed it up for everybody by sending Jordan Lewis out there last year when he was wobbling around like a drunken sailor after being knocked out earlier in the game. That's the kind of situation where Uncle Andrew and his cast of idiots should be picking up the phone and asking questions of the club, not when Jarrad Waite suffers a pissy little bump that knocks him around for five minutes and leaves him unscathed and sitting on the bench doing nothing for the rest of the match.
And take your NFL examples and cram them. The whole point of that sport is for an offensive line of 300lb fat porkies to bump up against a defensive line of 350lb boombahs with the express goal of leaping on somebody and stopping them by any means necessary. Their whole sport is built on concussions - it's no wonder that some players end up with brains like Swiss cheese by the end of their career. That's not our game. Go and ring up the NRL and ask them to do scans on Martin Lang's head to see if a career of being the designated runner of the ball straight into the opposition has done him any wrong - they need rules on concussion more than we do.
But yes, you can at least say there's some sort of aspect of player's future welfare in it. So what about the football abortion that is the substitute rule? What exact purpose does - allegedly - putting the brakes on bench rotations via a sub serve? I can't believe we've actually been fed the line that they want to slow the game down to lessen the amount of injuries to players. Theory is that three interchange players mean less rotations therefore players are more tired and unable to cannon into each and cause injury.
To back this up a few reams of paper were waved about with some vague stats about injuries being on the rise. What pure and utter bollocks. If Demetriou/Anderson want to write their names in history they should either name something after themselves a'la politicians or do a Ross Oakley and kill a club (sorry, forget they already tried that once), not bring in poorly thought out 'innovations' based on the wonky interpretation of stats. Ask Jonathan Brown, Joel Selwood and Jason Porplyzia about how you don't have to wait until the last quarter to suffer a serious injury.
Ask Jay Schulz if there was less chance of him blowing his knee to the shithouse in the last quarter because he's not running as fast. While you're at it ask somebody what the purpose is of making the players who come off wear a garish red vest. It's not 1912, somebody is going to notice if a player who has officially been taken out of the game suddenly wanders back onto the field. Come to think of it there's no need for a vest for the starting sub either - are they suggesting that if Ricky Petterd had suddenly bounded off the bench fifteen minutes into the second quarter that we would have gotten away with it? It just makes no sense. Poor Jay doesn't know if he's going to be out for three weeks or the rest of the year but before anything else happens he has to strap a red vest on. Why? Was there some chance he might just run back out there? Surely Porplyzia had to try and pull one over his destroyed shoulder or risk the Crows copping a fine. It's bollocks.
Clubs won't cut down on interchanges just because they've got less players to choose from, they'll just move those three around more. And can we now expect that after three quarters of smashing each other to a pulp players are going to wilt in last quarters and cause games to limp to tedious, skill free conclusions? How exciting that's going to be, what a great advertisement for the game.
Just think about how many times you've seen a player knocked on his arse by a huge hit since they tightened the rules to demand mandatory execution of anybody who does a head high hit. How many times does it happen in the last quarter? Barely ever. The big hits and bumps are early or in the middle of a game, and how is that going to be affected by this rubbish rule?
The heavy handed, illogical interchange breach rules are one thing. The penalty outweighs the crime drastically in 99.9% of cases but it doesn't change the actual fabric of the game. This does and it's shithouse. Paul Roos is right in saying that we're the only game that is regressing to the rules of the past. When did you ever see a modern sport deliberately handicap itself so that its best aspects are downplayed? Not since the Marquis of Queensberry gloved the bare-knuckle boxers and they stopped having 100 round title fights has any major sport done so much to take the most attractive elements out of their game.
Does anybody have any confidence in the clowns who run this game? You could put NSW Labor in charge of the product they've got and it would make a fortune in broadcasting rights, what exactly is it that they do for their $2+ mil a year? I'd call on them to resign but nobody's giving up that sort of money to show up at work, put the feet up do a few speeches and tinker with the fabric of the sport every year.
And what are our brave friends in the media saying about this? Well if the pre-season previews in the newspapers and the commentary on Friday night's match are anything to go by they're hooking into a gigantic shit sandwich from the league and declaring it ice cream. "The sub has done its job" screamed McAvaney like the incredible sycophant that he is. As if any Channel 7 commentator is going to have the plums to come out and say something that the league have done is stupid when the broadcast rights are up for grabs - and there's no point expecting the print journos to do anything about it lest they get thrown off the gravy train and stop being invited to free lunches. When Dwayne "fucking" Russell almost blew an o-ring over Brent Macaffer coming on to kick a goal in the last quarter of the game on Saturday I almost kicked my television in.
Mark my words next thing they'll start mucking with the game to try and "encourage scoring". There's no doubt that St Kilda are playing football so boring that it would make fans of the early 1900's throw their hands up in the air and go off to die of cholera but we can't just alter the sport because we don't like the way it's being played. The Saints have, thank god, won fuck all and if there's any justice in the world their gameplan will be forgotten soon as they sink to the bottom of the ladder.
Now the Pies are the big thing and "frontal pressure" has achieved "moving forward" levels of ubiquity when people talk about footy but somebody's going to come up with a new way of playing the game before long and the sport will evolve. Funny that the Pies also kicked 25 goals the other day, we should dream that more people start playing like that.
And then our glorious CEO has the nerve to blame roadworks for terrible first round crowds. He's off his nut. Perhaps people don't want to pay good money to go out and watch the game stuffed around with? I'll be there no matter what but the idea of having highly trained, highly paid professional players sitting on the bench for the majority of a game doing nothing belongs in another sport. It's all well and good to say that the rules were in pre-1978 and nobody cared then, but back then players weren't professionals - they were boilermakers, plumbers and PE teachers who trained a couple of nights a week and showed up for a game on Saturday as a second career. It's not the same, we don't need it, do your duty and ring up talkback radio to hammer it and god forbid one day they might listen to the people and ditch it.
See, this is the kind of shit that people need to be organising rallies at Parliament House for. Forget climate change and Juliar let's piss off the sub rule. I'm going to ring up Alan Jones and tell him that there's an afternoon hanging around with burly footballers in it for him if he supports the cause.
*ahem* See you in the Supreme Court for Demetriou/Anderson/Russell vs Demonblog.
The only interest I had was the scoreboard being about five minutes behind on announcing the change but Petterd getting a polite round of applause despite the fact that he'd already been involved in two scoring plays by the time they said it.
2011 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 - Brent Moloney
4 - Colin Sylvia
3 - Colin Garland
2 - Mark Jamar
1 - Luke Tapscott
Substantial apologies to Grimes, Trengove and Martin + lesser degrees of apology to Davey (second half), Dunn, Bennell and Jetta.
Votes in the rookie, defender and ruckman category by the end of Round 1? We're living in an enlightened era.
Where were the nutbags? Nowhere near me. Apart from old mate in front who liked a chat and then started bothering me to find out how much time there was left every ten seconds at the end there were no foul mouthed housewives or flat out nutbags. We are officially boring.
Stat My Bitch Up - presented by Demon Wiki, where footy stat nerd dreams come true.
That was the first MFC draw in the opening round since Round 1, 1921 against Essendon at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Third I've been at (+1 Essendon/Brisbane match) and my second against the Swans (after Round 7, 1992).
When the Petterd/Maric swap went down it was the first permanent substitution of MFC players since Peter Keays and Graham Osborne were replaced by Colin Graham and Peter Johnston at three-quarter time in Round 22, 1977. How was it for you? I'd rather go back to 1977 than go through that rubbish again. Peter Keays probably walked off the ground, got in his car and went to work in a Kentucky Fried Chicken drive-through, Ricky Petterd on the other hand is a full time professional footballer and was seen doing sprints on the MCG turf. What a fuck up. Breathe son, just breathe.
Back on more palatable matters Dean Bailey has now coached the equal second most draws in MFC history along with three other men. No coach has had more than one draw in his career since Norm Smith racked up the all-time record of five.
Hawthorn at the MCG in the Sunday graveyard slot. They're coming off a loss but I'm sure they'll still go in favourites. Good to see that star recruit Cam Bruce helped them on their way last night by giving two goals directly to the Crows. Hopefully Clarko loses completely - even more so - under the pressure of Kennett trying to tip him out and plays Bruce, Cheney and Paul Johnson.
Frawley might be back which should help deal with Franklin. He can replace Macdonald - permanently if we're lucky - but the only other change I want to make is that unless a miracle occurs, the world comes to its senses and we piss off the sub rule is to start Petterd and play the Emo off the bench.
So how do they separate us and the Swans on the ladder? Are we higher because of alphabetical order? And is Match Ratio going to earn a call-up again this year to reflect the return of the bye?
Footy is back. I'm not as distressed as I thought I might be.