Monday, 18 April 2011

Advanced, Forthright, Insignificant

What a change two years make. At roughly this point in 2009 I sat in Adelaide airport, then on a plane when it started going on a bit, scratching out depressingly emo wailing about another in a long line of interstate disasters.

Two seasons older and wise, with the scene shifted from the rural frontier of South Australia to the positively Heathrow-esque in comparison Brisbane Airport (ever wondered why they call it Brisvegas when the supermarkets shut at 9pm? They're comparing it to Adelaide) there was no need to have Lifeline on speed dial, no need to start questioning whether there was something more important to do in life than watch football. In fact last night couldn't have been any less like the aftermath of that loss to Port when I nearly caused a scene at the check-in desk by falling to the floor and curling up in the foetal position.

For a start I hadn't spent the whole day slowly roasting in the sun inside a none more 70's concrete jungle of a stadium surrounded (and I use the term loosely because it was sparsely populated) by nutters in teal. There was no hint of a violent hangover mixing with the pounding sun on my stressed brow, and importantly no ride to the airport after the game in a taxi with a driver so corpulent that the edge of his guts threatened to spill over and engage the handbrake at any moment. Most importantly yesterday I hadn't cocked up my return flight booking so significantly that it meant spending four and a half of the longest hours of my life in a place with the same sort of exciting atmosphere as Serviceton Coles.

The big difference between the two evenings was a win. A big, spanking 15 goal (on the dot) demolition job of the sort I'd have carved my left leg off for that afternoon at Football Park. But times have changed since that fateful day. Our club is no longer scraping the bottom of the sporting barrel and the premature haste of the league to put their names in the history books has invented a club which even we - not out of the ugly duckling holding pen yet by any means - can canter away from for a big win despite seemingly never stepping out of second gear.

There's no arguing with a 90 point win. If you can apply "By any means necessary" to a pained, drawn out victory over one of the Queensland strugglers you've got to apply it to their (presumably) worse fellow travellers. Still, I don't think it's entirely uncharitable to say that it may very well have been the worst 90 point win of all time.

Before you hit Page Down to go to the comments and start hurling abuse (there's plenty of time for that later) I wouldn't give it up for the world but the quality of the opposition is in such serious question that the fact it took them doing a fatal tailspin in the last twenty minutes to get us there lands it firmly in the vs. Fitzroy (mid 90's) bracket of thumping victories.

Make no mistake we were up against the genesis of what will be a fierce side sooner rather than later - and how could you not with the sort of leg-up they're getting - but there's going to be a trail of blood from here to South East Queensland via Tweed Heads and the Northern Rivers before then. Playing kids by the thousand is fine but today firmly exposed their lack of big bodied players. I'm guessing they had a crack at Brad Miller and he told them that he'd much stay here his wife if it's all the same but even he would have added some sort of extra dimension to their forwards today. Somebody to kick at other than Dixon would have helped, despite all the times we let them link up and find a player on his own inside 50.

They aimed their loaded chequebook at every player out of contract player in the world and came out with financial mercenaries, headcases who were so desperate to get out of their clubs they'd have signed for the Brisbane Bears if offered and in Nathan Krakouer the player who must have the biggest gulf between salary and actual interest in playing the game in the history of the league. Throw in being forced to play 'marquee' rugby players and having to make the highest paid player captain almost against his own will and you almost feel sorry for Guy McKenna. You will when he suggests he's going to drop Harmeichal next week only to walk into his match committee meeting to find that it's Andrew Demetriou, Mike Fitzpatrick and Adrian Anderson sitting there telling him that the Harm is going absolutely nowhere if Guy wants to stay in a job. And now that he hates the sub rule Guy's ok by me.

So, if this has been a short term disaster - and let's be fair there's no way they don't win at least one game for the year - imagine what the West Sydney experience is going to be like with Sheeds in charge? At least Guy seems like a sane and rational human, Kev will probably swap their prized picks for Chris Heffernan, John Barnes and Scott Camporeale then explain away the inevitable failure with a raft of conspiracy theories and half baked ideas that even Jason Akermanis would have rejected for being too stupid.

Enough about the new teams. If they're not playing off in a Grand Final within five years the CEO and the rest of his match committee will commit hari kari and leave final instructions to disbane three Melbourne clubs and send all their good players north.

I woke up this morning with that sort of feeling you only get when you go into a game as unbackable favourites. It's been a while. Didn't help much that despite losing Ablett with injury/disinterest and Campbell Brown through stupidity and malice there were still a queue of people from here to Bunbury lining up to say why they thought we were a chance of getting rolled. These things weigh heavily on me and ruin my sleep.

There's nothing shameful about losing your first game interstate against a new club, god knows we've done it enough over the years, but there is major shame attached to it if they're a bunch of raw kids, confirmed hacks and Michael Rischitelli who must be wondering if was really that important to stay in Queensland after falling out with Michael Voss and walking out on the Lions.

I didn't need pundits and washed up players to tell me that we were a chance of cocking it up. If any club was going to fail to take advantage of their en masse inexperience this early in the season it was always going to be bi-polar flaky freaks like us.

My nervousness started when the final teams were released and they'd left Petterd out. You'd have thought it would have been a perfectly good time to give him four quarters to cement his spot. After all he could very well have been up the other end today if he'd known that by pledging loyalty to us and signing a new contract we'd reward him making him wear the council worker vest and play in the VFL. Next thing he'll show up at Casey Fields to be told that his spot has been taken by Fev and can he please arrive at 9am for the reserves game. Then he will call everybody at our club bastards and walk out. Rightly so.

On the topic of luminous vests and doing nothing for three quarters, doesn't playing Watts as sub just stink of Bailey and co coaching to the media? Maybe after getting away without having to suspend Moloney over the non-scandal of the year the last thing they wanted was more articles about how wonderful Hurley is and how we should have somehow ignored all conventional wisdom and picked him at #1 instead. I'll stick with the one who has never bashed a taxi driver if it's all the same with you.

Perhaps instead of hiding Jack on the pine for 3/4 Bails might have sent him out with the specific instruction to go forward, dominate some kids and give the world a taste of his talents? What he didn't need to do was send him out in his vest to have a kick-to-kick session at half time on the boundary right next to the Little League game. Look out for that picture in the paper before long. Can't be anything like that for the confidence of a struggling kid.

Having him sitting down doing nothing (can we not afford an exercise bike?) was especially galling considering that for the first time this year we abandoned the slavish adherance to a Rotating Clump (© After Grog Blog) theory of attack and started hoofing it long to advantage in the square instead. We even kicked to leads inside 50 occasionally. As much as I enjoyed Jamar hauling in huge grabs over rakish Dickensian orphans and Nathan Bock - and believe me I did far more than any grown man should - it's hardly the wave of the future is it? Another missed opportunity, another chance to get my voice onto an SEN promo by ringing about and whinging about them playing him out of position.

Of course unless you were actually there, watching a dodgy YouTube quality internet stream or in a state where the game didn't conflict with Seven's obligation to run a second rate news service you weren't actually seeing any of this life. Which was a real downer for those who like to see endless shots of the sub sitting forlornely on the bench hoping one of his teammates does an ACL so he can get a game. In fact I can't believe it actually started 'on time' (say it with a straight face) and they didn't make you wait even longer for some pointless car race to finish before cutting out of the coverage halfway through the last quarter.

Seems like they actually went to the trouble of manipulating the coverage of the Freo game in Perth to make it fit in the with the news. The only plausible explanation is that they've heard Channel Nine are going to win the rights and they're tanking for the rest of the year. Sadly the unintended consequence of that is that they're so unpopular now that we'd gladly take the return of Eddie's 'bias free' calls of Collingwood games where it sounds as if his hands are strapped to the top of the desk so he can't start whacking it when they get a roll on. If we're lucky Nine might even take Dwayne Russell back so we don't feel so cheated at having to pay a monthly fee just to hear him spout sub-Cometti catchphrases.

The world is waiting for the AFL version of the old "Nobody Screws Soccer Like Seven" bumper stickers from a decade ago. If they get the rights again it will sell millions.

So kudos then to those of you who managed to go into a 60 minute media ban and watch it on Channel Scum. I'd never have managed it. The last time I watched a Melbourne game on delay was when we beat Adelaide on a Friday night in '05 and I didn't think much of it. I've been forced to listen to games through the notoriously wonky AFL website in even wonkier overseas internet cafes but I draw the line at rewarding network TV executives with Matthew Richardson in the 90's style ponytails by waiting patiently for the safety car to pull in at Barbagallo Raceway just so they can cut from the final siren to Jennifer Keyte.

What a day to have to wait in the dark for 60 minutes too. Just when we're threatening to either smash somebody or suffer the most humiliating defeat since THAT debacle against Sydney there you are wondering if V8 Supercars couldn't be improved if they just filled them with TV executives and drove them off Mt. Panorama instead. I guarantee you that when the Suns had their second shot on goal after kicking the first that more than one person took the Joe Gutnick 2000 Grand Final option of having a sneaky, illicit look at the live scores.

Alas instead of the beginning of the end of football as we knew it, and the start of my night in the lock-up, it was a mere blip on the radar. Like when the plane suddenly drops a bit and for two seconds you think you're going to die strewn across outback NSW (funny how being on a plane makes lazy flight related metaphors appear). Even I, probably in the top 5% most nervous and pessimistic fans alive, wasn't taking them seriously. "It's the first time they've ever had the lead" commentators were presumably screaming everywhere. Big deal, we're been in front of better sides than we are and have gone on to get absolutely tonked. The only problem it represented for me was how to tear up my gigantic Queensland TAB ticket which had Sylvia for first goal.

We were guilty more than once today of not taking them seriously. Davey getting done for holding the ball for that first goal and most of the third quarter were notable examples yet somehow quarter time rolled around and we'd kicked six goals and were 18 points in front. It didn't help that poor Harmeichal did a Jim Stynes and ran across the mark to gift Dunn a goal. Ridiculously it could have been even more if THE CELEBRATOR hadn't been beaten to a mark in an empty goalsquare by the siren.

It didn't make a great deal of sense because it seemed to me like the Suns held their own for large parts of the quarter and were having no trouble extracting the ball from our attacking 50 the moment it hit the ground (frontal pressure? Never heard of it) but they were getting murdered by the runners. Moloney was racking up possessions for fun (what scandal? Somebody ring up tomorrow and tell Eddie you saw Dane Swan taking a whizz on a bar and see if he airs it), usually as part of the Psychic Friends Connection with Jamar, and GC had no answers for the likes of Trengove and Bennell who would just run around their opponents with obscene ease.

When The Jurrahcane kicked the first goal of the second quarter after about 30 seconds, beating poor old Harm on the lead with the greatest of ease I started to believe that all the ingredients were there for him to kick a big bag and for us to win by more than a hundred. The reward for this hubris was that we went on to hit the post about two million times for the rest of the game. Still, five goals to one for the quarter and poor old, extremely rich in complete disproportion to his performances Harm got the biggest bronx cheer a crowd of 12,000 could possibly manage when he finally got a kick. Earlier they'd let him kick in - that didn't work. To his credit he actually set up a goal through the middle at one point in the third quarter but the way he's just going in this team tells me that Israel Folau won't even finish the season with GWS before he does an epic runner back to rugby league. If they are going to insist on playing him just for marketing value - despite him never having played for a Sydney club - can we please ask nicely to play GWS in Round 1 next year? 20 goals for Jurrah.

Strange quarter the third. Bailey came out and blamed the humidity which seemed a bit rich to me considering there didn't actually appear to be any but from where I was sitting - in a position that offered me about as much of a view of the ground as you'd get from coaching on the boundary line - it looked like after we got two goals on either side of the Harm assist (straight into the highlight reel before the next game) and hit the post a couple of times that millionaire football came out and everyone started trying to beat three opponents in every contest.

From when Danny Stanley kicked his goal of the year contender they smashed us for the next ten minutes and it was like you were watching us play somebody good. Like a less intense and frightening, but no less disturbing, version of the blitzkrieg we copped from Hawthorn a fortnight ago. It took that man Moloney (who I'm swooning over once again after years of neglect) to kick what - ridiculously - had become a steadier to put the brakes on their little run. Sadly Davey missing the set shot after the siren meant we lost the quarter by a point and now have to hear about it for the rest of the season. Come back in ten years time, this will be THE ONLY mention anywhere in the world of the fact that it was the first quarter they ever won because it's a rubbish stat that means nothing to anybody other than Guy McKenna as he tries to work out what the hell to do with his side before it's Round 21 and they've still only won one quarter.

Despite losing the quarter, and oh weren't you just heartbroken, we were all but home at three quarter time. The score was under the Chris Sullivan Line (46 points for all you new readers) but given the inexperience of the opposition and the fact that they'd run themselves into the ground I was willing to waive it and declare us home without having to get the margin over the CSL.

Finally Watts got 'activated' (early contender for the most annoying footy slang of the year) and surprise, surprise his first touch came on the half back-flank. Which he then proceeded to stuff up in royal fashion and gift them a goal. Refer to previous month of posts - what was he doing there in the first place? Eventually he went forward for what must have been the second time this year and set up THE CELEBRATOR with a dainty tap over the top to Davey. Later he threw a couple of cracking tackles inside the forward 50. This is why he should remain there. This is probably why he'll get dropped. Unfortunately he blotted a decent last quarter with the worst attempt at a bounce ever on the final siren but with any luck Channel 7 will have missed that while going to David Brown for the weekend weather.

Admittedly it would have been hard not to play well in the last quarter as we spent the last 25 minutes running rings around players who had stopped cold - or in Coad's case stopped and been forced back on only to blow up his hammy - and taking speculative pot shots at goal. Jamar went from the centre to full forward and was pulling down (barely) contested marks galore and even Rohan Bail finally managed to kick a goal in front of his friends and family at about the fifth attempt.

The result quickly went from one of the worst 70 point wins of all time, to probably the worst 80pt win of all time to almost certainly the worst 90 point win of all time. With a bit of luck at the end it might have been crowned the undoubted worst 100 point in the history of footy but sadly it wasn't to be. Still, I don't give a rat's who it's against I'll take 44 scoring shots any day of the week.

So fortunately no chance to hear the rebadged Port Power song again and even more fortunately the chance to actually enjoy some post match celebrations without having to cut away to the news.

I'll take it until we win an interstate game by more then this. Then we'll never speak of this day again.

2011 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes

Hard to go past Moloney for the first half which helped set it all up. Went missing a bit in the third, but so did everyone and at least he kicked the shameful steadier. Didn't do a great deal in the last quarter but how could you when 95% of the team were lining up to get a kick against a bunch of witches hats.

Trengove was mighty today, I'll dying for the return of the SCULLGOVE partnership but he's doing just fine on his own at the moment and I've been super impressed with Bail so far this year. Despite only having nabbed one vote in the Jakovich so far I'm still going with the SME as the coveted Most Improved player in our side but Bail isn't far behind.

As for the other two you can basically pencil them in for votes, or at the least top shelf apologies, every week from now on. Stars.

5 - Brent Moloney
4 - Jack Trengove
3 - Rohan Bail
2 - Colin Sylvia
1 - Mark Jamar

Gold Card apologies to Jurrah. Silver level apologies to nigh on everybody else.

Leaderboard
14 - Brent Moloney
10 - Colin Sylvia
8 - Mark Jamar (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year. Any objections to me declaring this one over right now?)
6 - Luke Tapscott (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year and Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
5 - Rohan Bail
4 - Jack Trengove
3 - Jack Grimes, Liam Jurrah
3 - Colin Garland
2 - Jared Rivers
1 - Stefan Martin, Nathan Jones

Crowd Watch
What crowd? It's a good thing their next home game is against Brisbane because the tick over 12,000 who turned up today wouldn't be much cause for celebration after getting nearly 28k for the opener.

A big chunk of that 12k came at the last minute or after the first bounce too because when the teams ran out the place was an absolute ghost town. Numbers were boosted by a big turnout of our fans as well - including what looked like the only heavily populated bay in the ground diagonally opposite where we were sitting - and what appeared to be every schoolchild in the City of Brisbane area there on a free ticket. As we boarded a bus to the ground a child pointed at it and said "All the Gold Coast supporters are on that bus". I know what he meant but geez he almost nailed it perfectly.

We ended up sitting in a bizarre Platform 13 1/2 style section on ground level that wasn't quite in the general public area but wasn't in the members. It was literally where batsman come to the crease from when there's a cricket game on there and more than one person took advantage of the lax security to open said gate and just stroll onto the Gabba turf for a few seconds.

Next to us were a family of Collingwood fans, albeit with a kid half heartedly waving a Suns flag, behind a guy who admitted during a phone call that he didn't actually care who won and was there on a free ticket anyway and in front two Brisbane fans who clapped everything that both sides did politely. Passion was most certainly not in fashion in Bay 13 1/2.

I hope the Lions fans don't get sucked into some sort of State of Origin mentality and start supporting the Suns when they play other teams. Given that half the Gold Coast fans probably enjoyed three flags with the Lions and then pushed off to the new club when times started getting tough the default setting should, nay MUST, be pure, white hot hatred - not state against state comradeship. This should sort itself out naturally when the Lions lose to them in two weeks.

They were trying hard to get a bit of 'atmosphere' about the place. It certainly ticked off the second rule of sports marketing (first rule is never give away any free product that can be thrown), pretending that there was a huge crowd there and that their team wasn't rubbish. It's harder than it seems, I once had a two week stint at it and pulled the pin after realising that not only was nobody there and there wasn't really a way to conceal it but also that the people who did turn up couldn't have cared less about 'pre-match entertainment' if it was in Swahili. Credit then to their host who managed to do a servicable job of pretending the place was overflowing with punters without resorting to McCallum-esque hyperbole, shouting or the hoisting of flags.

Pity then the Suns players who had to go and do a meet and greet with the fans after copping the last eight goals of the game while they were out on their feet. Apart from one bloke who was inexplicably having the time of his life it was horribly forced and done only to keep happy the self important tossbags who had complained that the players didn't 'acknowledge' them after losing by 20 goals against Carlton. You shouldn't get a round of applause for ditching your original footy team and shacking up with the flavour of the month, you should get white feathers in the post from your original team. But this is the 21st century AFL where apparently the guys who have spent two hours risking having their limbs snapped in two for your enjoyment owe you something for coming to watch. Get out.

Also as you would have seen if you're reading the Demonblog Twitter, the Gabba have shunned the idea of installing an ATM in their ground and instead they have a counter where you can go and see a lady who will swipe your card in an EFTPOS machine and then give you the cash. Surely an ATM would be more cost effective?

Next Week
I'm going to Omeo and pretending footy does not exist.

The Week After
Welcome to the world of wacky timeslots as it's the Eagles in Perth on a Thursday night. How avante garde of the schedulers. Is there some sort of public holiday over that that at least half justifies this?

Either way, coming off the bye it should mean squat to us whether the game is played at 7pm on a Thursday or Tuesday lunchtime. It's a bit rough to have to travel interstate two games in a row when you're as pox a travelling team as we are but there shouldn't be too many complaints with the week off in between.

The only problem is that the Eagles of 2011 are a seem a far tougher proposition than the side which we, err, lost to last year. Our record in Perth is only marginally better than it is in Adelaide so I wouldn't be getting too excited even if we were playing them in prime wooden spoon form - and what a false spoon it was, who finishes last AND has a player kick 12 in a game other than St Kilda in the 80's?

At least it's a good mission to send our team on and gauge whether they're actually any realistic chance of making the eight or whether beating the two worst sides in the competition is as good as it gets for us. I'm most interested in the Jamar/Martin vs Cox/Naitanui dual. The Experience has played out of his skin so far this year but this is a challenge. The Irresistable Force and The Russian meet the Immovable Object and a guy with floppy comedy hair. Jamar will do the lion's share of trying to stick his knee through one/both of their ribcages but I'm doing to see how the SME goes against them.

We'll also be treated to the spectacle of Jack Darling doing as he pleases and the inevitable comparisons between him and our forward line Jack. The major difference between the two is that one of them got booted out of school for being an epic rooter and the other one plays for us. Stand by for your favourite Herald Sun journo to write an article questioning why we didn't draft Darling when he was an embyro.

There sadly the comparisons will end as Watts will undoubtedly be riding the fluro green slide into the VFL, where at least if we're lucky he might strike a coach with half an interest in playing him to his strengths and not in vague positions around the ground most usually the half-back flank. Drop him if you absolutely must - and I'll go to my grave defending him - but if Petterd isn't the replacement I'll ramraid the Megastore.

In another magic piece of fixturing gold by the peanuts who run these competitions Casey have also got the bye next week so whatever team changes they make for the West Coast will be based on the win over North Ballarat on Saturday. Dare I mention that one M. Newton kicked six for the Scorpions in his last start? It would really show the world what an up and coming, going places concern we were if we ditched a #1 pick and had Juice wandering the wide world of half back-flank instead.

Was it worth it?
For being at our all time biggest win outside of Melbourne (Geelong included) yes. For finally seeing a win at the Gabba at my third attempt yes. For making it home in one piece without having to spend the night sleeping in a car like my last trip to Brisbane yes.

Most importantly it was worth it for the sight of the forgotten man, and travelling emergency par excellence, Emo Maric trudging off the ground at the end of the game with his hands jammed firmly in his pockets, not a teammate in sight and the glum expression of a teenage who has just been caught smoking. Until Channel 7 can capture a moment like that they're completely useless to me.

2 comments:

  1. As usual...... brilliant!

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  2. Hmmm, the 46 pt CSL. You've brought back horrible memories of that awful day which I thought I had suppressed. I still can't believe the knobbing we got from the umps in that final quarter, one Derek Kickett being the main beneficiary as I recall. For many years I had to put up with Essendon supporters reminding me. I'm thankful Essendon's mediocre last 10 years has taken the wind out of their sails. KK.

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