Saturday, 5 March 2011

Let the good times roll

So how's the feelgood factor going for you? If we'd had 25% more of the first team out there and turned in that sort of performance there would be riots in the street, maybe there still should be. Either way it's proof that last week was no fluke.

But before you bite down fully on the cyanide pill take the following into consideration;

a) Missing from the team today were Bartram, Frawley, Trengove, Morton, McKenzie, Grimes, Green, Garland, Jurrah and Davey. Who knows/cares who the Lions had missing other than Brown but I guarantee you they don't stack up to that group.
b) We are toilet in practice matches at the best of times.

Considering who wasn't there and the way that players who won't be anywhere near the park in Round 1 were given so much responsibility it's hard to know what to take out of today. My heart says that the Lions are so rubbish that we should beat them even with a second string side, my head says it matters not a toss what happened.

The reality is somewhere smack bang in the middle. The Lions are still awful, and they did everything in their power to hand us victory today. They were torching easy shots on goal at every opportunity and their field kicking for the first three quarters was rancid, but they still beat us by five goals.

It all started so well too. When the ball went straight out of the centre and down the throat of the Experience (not literally, that would be hideous) I thought we were in for a good day. The free at the top of the square almost sparked a melee in the stands when two guys couldn't decide whether he'd miss it or not. Looked touched off the boot to me, but it got full points so who am I to complain? The guy who backed him to kick it (and no, it wasn't me) gave a half-hearted "I TOLD YOU SO!" when it went in. Thankfully nobody was required to jump in and remind them that punching your fellow spectator in the head should be kept for the regular season only because I certainly wasn't going to be the person to do it.

Coming off the back of that goal we battered them for the first ten minutes, and any half decent team would have put them away there and then but nearly every time it went inside 50 we were either grossly outnumbered, didn't have a player in the same area code as where the kick landed or the Lions cleared it without even the hint of defensive pressure. Luckily for us they were stuffing it up whenever they finally did manage to go forward, and when Jetta did some kind of kung-fu mid-air kick to put us two goals in front so much the better.

Nifty Nev played a blinder of a first quarter. He was bloody good all day, but not only did he kick the goal he hit a couple of the best Whelan-esque tackles you would want to see. Him and Emo Maric have been the big stories of the pre-season and both of them did the job again today. Maric got three goals, zero smiles and even managed to get involve in a dust-up with one of the Brisbane players after his opponent told him that 30 Seconds to Mars were rubbish.

Even when Brisbane hit back to take the lead in the first quarter we still had them under control, but it was telling that both the Dunn and Sylvia goals came from long bombs because as the day went on it started to look like that's the only way we'd ever kick goals. Down the other end, how was the Rivers deliberate in the first quarter? Serves him right for not even trying to disguise it I reckon.

The second quarter was when it all started going wrong. Everyone's favourite tactic of playing the entire forward line inside the defensive 50 and kicking to empty space/opposition players was brought in, and gee didn't it lift the crowd? There was a surprising amount of people there for such a meaningless game but you could tell that the moment we started playing Stef Martin one out against three opponents as our entire forward line with not even a hint of crumb around the place half the people there were tempted to gouge their eyes out rather than sit there and watch it. Those who braved the one food outlet in the whole place had the right idea, standing for 30 minutes in the dank corridors of Princes Park is much more entertaining than watching us play.

The passage of play that said it all about the excitement level that that tactic brings to our game was after we copped a goal and from the centre bounce Jamar did a perfect Psychic Friends Connection tap to Moloney who then did what anybody else would in that situation and hoofed it forward expecting a mark or a contest. Instead he found Martin getting jumped on by three defenders and when the ball hit the deck it went straight back in the other direction without one other red and blue jumper getting within 20m of it.

That was from a centre bounce for god's sake. For most of the day that was the only time we had marking targets inside forward 50 so you can understand where Moloney was coming from. Must have been as big a surprise to him as anybody to see that his kick was completely wasted by the fact that Watts and Petterd were standing five metres in front of him.

Admittedly after Brisbane started getting on top we did start trying to kick to targets late in the quarter and both Maric and Watts got goals, but both were hefty bombs from outside 50 and the latter from a free. The actual attempts to spot a forward up front consisted of booting it high to a pack and hoping for the best which usually (i.e nearly always) didn't eventuate. Without Jurrah down there, and with Watts still getting into it, the only person even half likely to benefit from a tactic like that is Jamar - and what are you going to do without your only good fit ruckman for most of the game?

At the other end the Lions were picking targets easily, and whenever they stuffed the kick up - which was often - we were kind enough to provide another opportunity soon after. Apart from one moment of disaster in the first quarter when he kicked across goal and landed it straight on a Brisbane player for a goal Tapscott looked promising [UPDATE - It's since been suggested that this might have been Rivers. Whatever. They don't even look the same but I was sitting on ground level during the first quarter and therefore couldn't make out anything]. Promising and angry. His proper kicks going outside forward 50 were a thing of beauty. Thumping, violent roosts which more often than not hit a target. Strauss was alright in the first half too, but he was in the hands of trainers at one point and ended up getting subbed off in the second half.

The rest were pretty heinous though. Rivers couldn't get near an opponent and Joel Macdonald is in danger of winding up as the universal hate figure for our entire fanbase this year. He had another nightmare second half, conceding a goal with a terrible kick across field after having an hour to kick it to somebody (Dunn? I was too busy seeing my life flash before my eyes knowing he was going to stuff it up) and then a free-kick/50 combo in the last which cost us another one.

Warnock was only better in that he didn't concede as many howling turnovers or give away pointless free kicks but no matter how you slice it the fact is the world famous forward combination of Mitch Clark and Brent Staker were doing whatever they liked and it was only the fact that they're very ordinary at the best of times that saved us from a bigger beating. Had we given a decent combination the same latitude they'd have kicked 20 between them.

And ask yourself how they kept finding so much space inside 50 for these dinky little short chips and short passes. It feels like I've written the same thing so many times that it's almost equalled our botched kick-ins as a template feature of Demonblog. Whenever the ball crosses the centre-circle going the wrong way we seem to have the entire team behind it, but still when somebody takes a mark 50m out on a shite angle they're able to work it around to a better position or find somebody leading 30m out. Yet if they completely stuff it up, as Brisbane were want to do on so many occassions, one of our guys will pick the ball up, look forward, see nothing and just hit and hope that someone will run onto it.

I'm glad I wasn't the only person cracking the sads about it either. I sat in three different places during the day and every time there was one of these hit and hope slopfests going forward the people behind me collectively sighed. I'm not saying I want to go down swinging every week and play recklessly but the success/failure rate of the end-to-end Swashbuckle is about one in fifty. It worked once today when Maric got onto one in the last quarter, and as much as I like to see my new favourite player kick goals it was neatly balanced out about five minutes later when poor Rohan Bail had to hoof one forward where he found only Lions defenders. "What else was he supposed to do?" said the guy behind me. Absolutely correct. God help us if they start trying to dink it around in the midfield to give players the chance to run forward, that's got comedy bloopers written all over it.

By half time we were behind but I was still holding onto a sick, misguided belief that we were going to run over them. But who's running over anybody when you can't kick goals? Six in the first half is about three times what we usually manage but this was Brisbane, a team we actually finished above last year. We went through Kevin Rudd's entire term of office as Prime Minister without finishing above another team, it's something of a big deal to actually be better than them. Not to mention the fact that they were handing it to us on a plate, it was just that we weren't equipped to take it.

Shame then that Jamar got precious little support despite playing an absolutely mighty game in the centre with Brad Green-esque total football cameos at both ends of the field - often within the space of a minute. He was absolutely titanic (in the good sort of way before that ship ruined the word for everybody) but we were still getting thrashed out of the middle. I know they were experimenting with Bate on the wing (not so bad) and both Jetta and Bail in the middle at various times but it doesn't help that Moloney and Jones both still kick like Heather Mills-McCartney. Gysberts and Scully were ok without ever going ballistic, and Martin's ruck cameos were more than acceptable, but there's a lot that needs to be belted back into place - violently if necessary before the real games start.

We managed to stay within ten points of them for most of the quarter, but the problem was that every time we toiled to kick a goal they would go down the other end and do the same two minutes later with a distinct lack of toil. Watts, Petterd and Jamar (towering mark in the square, rare occassion that the big bomb actually worked - mainly because he has hands like plates) all got goals that dragged the margin back to ten but we could never get the next one and no surprises when the defensive shenanigans came that was the end of us and by three-quarter time it was 28 points.

The Spencil rucked much of the second half with Jamar up forward, down back and everywhere in-between. Was constantly getting beaten to the tap even when it looked like he had best position. If it's any consolation we'd just have stuffed it up anyway if he had managed to get first hands to it.

At least there was a bit of biff in the last quarter, especially when Bail decked the guy after he marked. Nothing really malicious, just failed to pull up in time after the mark and dropped him on his arse. Started a bit of a fracas though and I'm sure somebody will be donating money to the league this week for it.

Taken in it's entirety the day was purely garbage, the only consolation being that an enormous cyclone didn't tear through the ground and kill us all. For all the positives and excuses I'm still going into next week and Round One expecting the worst this year. At least if we are anyway decent it will be surprise.

2011 Paul Prymke Plate for Pre-Season Performance votes
5 - Mark Jamar
4 - Neville Jetta
3 - Addam Maric
2 - Colin Sylvia
1 - Luke Tapscott

Apologies to anybody who actually paid to watch this stuff. Next time we play at Princes Park just wave any old card at the people on the gate, they don't actually seem to care. Try your Blockbuster Video card and see how you get on.

Leaderboard
Assuming we're only playing one more of these garbage games then Sylvia wins without it going to preferences. Otherwise he might cop the big Al Gore and have victory stolen out of his hands.

16 – Colin Sylvia (WINNER: PPPfPPP)
10 - Jack Grimes
8 - Mark Jamar
6 - Addam Maric
6 - Neville Jetta
5 - Colin Garland
4 - Stefan Martin
4 – Rohan Bail
4 - Liam Jurrah
3 – Tom Scully
3 - Aaron Davey
2 – James Strauss
1 – Jared Rivers
1 - Jack Watts
1 - Jack Trengove
1 - Luke Tapscott

Fit In Or Frig Off Corner (incorporating Expansion Talk, Travel Central and Breakdown City, Arizona)
It's a tribute to the way the AFL have made an epic balls-up of the expansion process that yesterday Scully all but said he'd be staying around next year and it's hard to believe him. "I haven’t spoken to them", "I want to be a one club player", "I love the club" etc.. is wonderful but how about your signature please?

Like him from the X Files I want to believe, and I'm trying very hard to, but I still say we get jerked around like morons for the rest of the season before he takes the golden briefcase anyway. I won’t be holding his impending departure against him during the year or rigging the votes so he gets less than Juice Newton, but if he winds up wearing that horrible uniform next year then he'll enter the J**d Hall of Shame in my book. On the other hand if he re-signs, then I never doubted him for a second and will be furiously burning old posts to cover up the evidence.

Speaking of GC and GWS I'm dying to see just what sort of crowds these heartless franchises (and that’s exactly what they are) attract. Just wait until Gold Coast win the flag in four years and the victory parade down Cavill Avenue has 27 people throwing red and yellow streamers at Gary Ablett’s bald bonce. The least they could do is hold it during schoolies so at least the heaving 18-year-olds can be counted in the official attendance. Either way there’s no chance that even if the two sides have bigger combined trading losses than Barings Bank that the league are going to let them go to the wall. Every cent they’ve got will be thrown towards keeping them afloat, and if Demetriou has to take a slice out of his $2m salary to help them live well... No that's going too far.

It's ironic that the Bears started playing on the Gold Coast and nobody cared, now the Gold Coast are starting in Brisbane and achieving an almost equal level of disinterest. Sure, Queensland has plenty more to worry about right now than some footy side with one guy they’ve heard of, several cast-off hacks and a bunch of kids but let's see what happens when people actually have to turn up. I'll be at their second "home" game at the Gabba on April 27, so let's see what sort of turnout they get then. The first game has got curiosity value written all over it, but if they don't beat the Blues or – god forbid – get flogged it'll be interesting to see how many of their 'rabid' fans show up. There actually seemed to be a few people cheering them on in Perth last week, but that might have just been bitter Freo fans who just hate the Eagles.

During the week I got a slightly dubious email asking if I wanted to write about AFL venues for some American website. There was money involved but it's probably coming through a bank account in Kosovo so I'm going to have to politely decline, but just in case they are legit and are still reading here's my personal top five Princes Park/Optus Oval/MC Labor Park/whatever it's called this week moments;

1) My mum refusing to take me there for any reason as a kid. It was the MCG and Waverley or nothing, and even Waverley got the boot when you started having to pay an extra $5 on top of your train ticket to get the bus from Glen Waverley station.

2) Finally going there in 1999 when we played the Dogs and having some Footscray bogan threaten to belt me for reasons which I'm not still sure about. Suffice to say that for once it wasn’t actually my fault.

3) The epic comeback in the last quarter there during 2003 after which the season went completely tits up.

4) Almost throwing a ten goal lead away in the last quarter of the last premiership match at the joint while sitting in the outer as one of about 23 Melbourne fans in the stadium.

5) Finding a washing machine at the foot of a staircase when Casey played the Northern Bullants, then missing Mitch Robinson punching Rohan Bail in the head 50m off the ball because I was inspecting the "disabled seating" which featured actual seats, up a step and with a clearance of 10cm before the barrier. I was overjoyed to discover today that the washing machine was still there.

Today would rank somewhere between the time Myke Pike kicked a goal against us on the day that I ditched a family reunion to watch a practice match and the time that we had our work christmas party there (!?) and it was 40 degrees.

Next week
Is there any point trying to read the whims of the league when it comes to these novelty games? This game went from the Gold Coast to Melbourne to 1pm to 12pm in the space of about twenty minutes so don’t believe the first answer you’re given for next week.

Apparently it's either Hawthorn in Tasmania or Fremantle somewhere in WA depending on the result of the Semi Final tonight. Presumably it'll be the latter unless Collingwood completely lose interest in their game or are banned because Andrew Krakouer has been voted off Conviction Kitchen. Either way thank god it's interstate. Let somebody else watch this trash next week.

Final thoughts
Was it worth it? Well it was free at least.

5 comments:

  1. I still have the record from that 1999 match against the Bulldogs. It is the only record I have bought in the last 30-odd years and I bought it as a tribute to David Schwarz who was on the cover and who was playing his 100th game, which I felt was noteworthy on the back of his knee troubles.

    Just as note-worthy, but less celebration-worthy, we got absolutely pumped, the weather was absolutely freezing and I got absolutely shit faced.

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  2. Any novelty names on the reserves team sheet that I need to know about?

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  3. ...Ric Ocasek would describe Maric as "Emotion in Motion."

    Thanks, that article was "Just What I Needed."

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  4. Got the same email, just wondering what made you worry about the american website?

    All seemed okay to me.

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  5. I'm just automatically conditioned to treat any offer of money that comes unsolicited from the internet as some sort of Nigerian scam.

    Probably is perfectly legitimate to be fair.

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