I'm a lifetime subscriber to the "by any means necessary" theory of football. History will show we beat the Lions by 11 points, the ladder shows we got four points and unless there's the biggest calamity on the face of the earth next Sunday we'll go into the bye week 2-1-1 and right in the mix. Let the good times roll eh? Cancel your September holidays? Maybe not. By Any Means Necessary is a great slogan for Malcolm X and t-shirts but it's what happens next that makes the difference.
I can't have been the only person who spent the quarter time break today on the verge of going absolutely off my nut. The metaphorical cat had not only been kicked it was being fitted with a series of explosive devices and within seconds of being hurled at the ground in the direction of the huddle. There was something seriously rotten happening out there, and in retrospect it reminds me of the Adelaide game last year where we were utter toilet for the first half before papering over the gaping cracks by running over the top of them in the end. I remember sending a string of angsty text messages that day about how awful our forward structure was - a year on and what's changed?
Put the putrid umpiring to one side for a second, and I know that might be hard to do after Dunn was on the end of the THE WORST DECISION IN THE HISTORY OF FOOTBALL which gifted them one of their five opening goals, and ask yourself what in the name of dutch buggery we were doing in that first quarter? I'd sit down and watch it again to work it out but it would make me gouge my eyes out with a fork. From the moment Jurrah missed his second shot on goal we were pure shite, unable to win anything significant out of the middle, bombing it into the forward line with precious little care, attention or attempt to find a lead. Down back Matthew Bate's talented twin brother Todd Banfield was doing what he wanted with the defenders all playing behind their opponents and getting carved. It was a recipe for disaster straight off of the new "100 YEARS OF ABYSMAL MFC DEBACLES" DVD.
The Lions, on the other hand, were playing out of their skins. It's no surprise either, we've seen it a billion times over the years both coming from and going against us. Remember being three goals up against Geelong in R3 2008 starting 30-1 underdogs after we'd been fingered in the crack for the first fortnight of the season? That's what happens when a superior side (and the difference in superiority that day outweighed today's by a factor of 10 MILLION) doesn't start at their best and the humiliated team which has been beaten from pillar to post in the media all week starts like a house on fire. The difference between a good team and a mediocre team is how long you let the upstarts stay in control before gunning them down - and more importantly whether they really put the foot on the throat once you're on top. We did one but not the other and it leaves us neatly slopping around at our natural place as the best of the teams who are nowhere near good enough to challenge for the premiership. I'm not going to turn yet but all the conditions are there for a massive mid-season turn a'la that horrific Friday night against the Cats in '03 if we don't sort out some of the problems in this side.
History is littered with insignificant wins like today. In fact have a hundred odd seasons worth of them. It's better than another draw - and that was well on the cards - and infinitely better than a loss but what's it leading towards? Did you see anything today that you can fast forward two years and see us contending for a flag? Moloney, Davey, Jamar and Green will either be just going or gone by then, Morton and Watts are going nowhere fast by the looks of it and having the likes of Frawley, Trengove, Tapscott, Jurrah et al going crackers isn't going to help if the famous "bottom six" of our best 22 (as we all hope it will be again by then) is as shit as Carlton's is now. Players come and go from nowhere and that's about all I'm pinning our future hopes of success on at the moment. Coaches come from places a bit more prominent than Parts Unknown but you can dream about a Malthouse or Paul Roos showing up next season - either of them would spit at the minimum wage we could offer.
But enough of the 2013 premiership season, back to today. Am I the only one who was absolutely flabbergasted that they went through that flag hoisting rubbish again? I've got a very small tolerance for that sort of stuff before cultural cringe kicks in at the best of times but was almost ok with it after Round 1 due to the presence of J. Stynes and the fact that it was a one off. Now they've decided that they're going to do it at every home game. Oh the shame, the horrible, gnawing shame tearing my soul apart. They even did it at the end of the game. I love the new logo and I'm a big fan of the way they're trying to bring historical, traditional angles back into the club by reintroducing old school style mascots (as much as one can be for the idea of mascots anyway) but this is the ugliest idea around. It might even be worse than the Hawthorn recovering junkies goalkicking competition.
Correct me if I'm wrong but the only other time we've ever raised flags in the centre of the MCG would have been after the 12 times we won a premiership. WE HAVE WON NOTHING NOW. WIN SOMETHING AND THEN RAISE THAT EVERY WEEK. Might have sounded like a magnificent idea in some "blue sky session" but it's embarassing to the people actually sitting in the stands. I never thought the idiot in the velvet jacket and his trumpet would last this long so don't expect it to go anywhere soon but when opposition fans point out the obvious then there is absolutely nothing you can say (although if it's a Port, Freo, Bulldogs, Gold Coast or St Kilda fan you might get away with mocking their lack of success) other than to agree that it is a stupid concept and that we are opening ourselves up to ridicule by doing it.
The fact that they also did it after the game was nearly lost in the euphoria (?) of us getting out of jail in epic fashion, but the sight of the marketing department running out onto the field with it and desperately to get the thing to raise and show some life with absolutely no breeze to speak of was so farcical the footage of it deserves to go into any future MFC Hall of Fame.
How overrated is the idea of pre-match entertainment anyway? You could almost pay them credit for trying something different unlike the other clubs who just play the same video packages over, and over, and over again but we do that as well. They must have had that ad with Barassi yelling (and thanks for helpfully labelling him RON BARASSI as if anybody in the crowd doesn't know who he is) about 25 times.
I'd quite happily sit there in dead silence or listening to Video Ezy ads a'la the early 90's but if we have to give in to marketing departments (and believe me I'm not going for the Bill Hicks anti-marketing dollar here, I work in one myself) how about going back to playing classic games - it's not like we haven't had a couple of corkers at the 'G against the Lions in recent times, or god forbid they could throw an old Fitzroy or Bears game on for something different. Another options would be to rustle up ten (minimum) highlights packages and play them randomly. Don't run them all the same week, throw a few in here, a few there and give the punters some actual footballing buzz rather than acid jazz trumpet and semaphore demonstrations.
The only man to come out of the first term with any credit - and by christ after that flag rubbish I'm surprised they didn't do a Jobe Watson style sitdown protest - was Gysberts. He's the Giz, and he's awesome. That kid is not going anywhere except straight into our starting lineup unless he gets hurt, and after four games is already showing up Morton as a potential massive waste of potential and a #4 draft pick. Get Champion Data on the phone and tell me how many hard-ball gets, contested possessions and clearances The Giz has had in four games compared to Morton in 51. Cale has had some stunning games (West Coast '08 anybody?) but even in other games where he's had 30+ touches he's hardly been damaging with most of them coming across half-back. Besides, what do possessions mean in this era anyway? Jamie Shanahan would have been getting 15 in today's game.
The next couple after him in the draft haven't exactly set the world alight, but right now the only thing that is keeping my faith alive is the fact that Sylvia has taken seven years to become a gun. Unfortunately he has a touch of the crunt about him that Cale most certainly does not.
Tell you where I thought he looked like he was about to do some damage - Round 9, 2009 against Geelong at Kardinia Park. We served up a steaming pile of the brown stuff that day, and I froze my tits off but with absolutely nobody else looking likely to do anything he went forward for three goals. They were all when the game was well and truly lost (from late in the third quarter onwards) but at least it proved he could kick them. Do you think he's been seen near a forward line since? Instead of racking up cheap touches as a loose man in the backline during the last couple of weeks of 2010 when our season was stuffed they could have tried something new and sent him forward, but conservatism always seems to win out under this regime.
No matter where he's at in the grand scheme of things Morton was horrid today. I felt bad for him at first because he was the sub (bah) but nothing he did once he shed the council worker's vest worked. Maybe he needs time to get into the game, maybe he's a bit too poncy to come into a match when the heat is on and look comfortable. Either way the Catch 22 is that he's surely not going to end up in the starting team on a showing like that. Grimes is doing what he did a couple of years ago ten times better, Morton has never shown any aptitude for getting into the centre bounce scramble and nobody's got any interest in giving him a run in the forward line so I'm going to suggest he's going to be spending time down as Casey with Fev until somebody gets hurt and allows him back in. Conversely they could take the chance of him cutting the children of the Gold Coast to shreds next week and play him on the field from the start - just the kind of arrogant, disrespectful manoeuvre that should see us suffer a shock loss.
Don't know why I'm so surprised that they're too scared to give him a decent run forward, after all Jack Watts is barely allowed to go inside 50 despite having been drafted ostensibly as a forward. Everyone wants a Riewoldt (Nick) style up-and-down the ground dominator but for god's sake is there any danger that they could play him down there for four quarters one day instead of making him looking stupid in the middle of the ground. He was lining up as a wingman at times today for god's sake. He's about as far from a Lance Franklin as I am but take note from Mad Old Clarko, Franklin ended up on a wing last night when the Hawks were taking the piss out of Richmond, not from the first bounce. When you're at Champion Data getting Morton's stats find me the amount of times Watts has entered the forward 50 this season.
Did Bailey drop something on the ground and miss that cracking pack mark he took against the Hawks last week? Ok he hasn't got the huge body yet which allow him to treat guys like Merrett with contempt in one-on-one contests but who does on our list? Not the Stefan Martin Experience (bless him, the most improved player on our list by a country mile), who is an acceptable second option but far more use around the ground. Not Jurrah who is a great mark and a great man but better flying from behind a pack or in from the side. Maybe Jamar, but we can't afford to have him down forward for very long when he's dominating in the middle.
The absurd lack of crumbers within the same postcode of contests in our forward 50 aside, what does Watts have to do to get a shot at playing out of the general region of FF and having people kick at him. Other than the fact that we only kick to players on the lead once or twice a game. There's plenty of time later to teach him to centre balls in the corridor without fucking it up if we really need to but bloody hell can we at least try and use him as offensive weapon first? He's being made to look stupid at the moment with what they've got him doing - people were cheering when he was subbed off for christ sake - but what he has brought to the table is good tackle and good chase. In the first quarter today when our forward pressure (as the kids say) was absolutely putrid and the ball was flying in and out of our forward 50 for no reward it could have done with somebody down there with a big(ish) body willing to chase and harass. Instead he was wandering around halfway to bloody Brunton Avenue tackling people on the half-back flank. It's shithouse. Write letters. Start Facebook groups. Ring SEN and try to get on amongst all the St Kilda fans slashing their wrists.
Also pressing my buttons today was the powderpuff reaction to Raines' hard tag on Davey. Everyone knows Flash goes to water when you go ultra-negative on him, and it's going to happen every week from now until the end of time unless The Giz, Trengove, Scully etc.. can take the heat off him. So while he was copping hell today where were the other players to step in and give Raines a slap? There was a bit of unconvincing push and shove but how about somebody shows some modicum of support for him? Every time Flash went off the ground Raines went with him, bumping him and generally being just the sort of ordinary human that we desperately need to introduce into our side, but only once did somebody run over and let him know that Davey had back-up. Credit to The Jurrahcane who ran from halfway down the ground to give him a bump and show his teammate some support. We have a lot of angry players, and one world class emo, but where are the legitimate enforcers?
It wasn't The 'Cane who started the revival, but he was certainly in the cockpit for it. We were only holding on courtesy of Nick Carter lookalike Jack Redden missing an absolute sitter just before the siren, but when Sylvia won it straight out of the middle and landed it on THE CELEBRATOR (I love writing that again) for the first goal after about ten seconds we were back into it - almost criminally given the lack of interest or structure in the first half. Of course they then went up the other end and kicked the next two goals to put us back in our place again. Then, cometh the hour cometh the cult figure - Jurrah got three more for the quarter including two epic bombs from outside 50 - on either side of The Giz adding to his great first half with a well taken set shot goal. All of a sudden it was half-time and we were not only back in it, it looked like we were going to run over the top and smash them. Quelle surprise as the French might say if they weren't busy suing the Lions for stealing their national anthem and using it as a theme song.
When Jurrah got his fifth seconds into the third quarter to put us in front (PB!) and Jamar started the quarter on six kicks it looked like records were going to tumble left, right and centre but as the rain came the game turned into even more of a horrendous slopfest than it was and we let the Lions in for two goals to steady their rapidly sinking the ship. The second in particular was putrid, The Russian - in his only non-goalkicking cock-up of the day - went up for a mark in the defensive goalsquare that he would usually snaffle with his eyes closed and dropped it for Luke Power to kick a goal. Just one of many times today that two or three players flew for the same mark in our backline and spoiled each other or messed it up - major issue that needs fixing. Otherwise defense was pretty good from quarter time onwards.
Thank god then for Jack Grimes who navigated through the storm to boot a rare goal and Sylvia who got one as well. By the time the sun started shining again and Bennell got his goal we were seemingly home. It certainly would have taken a series of ever expanding Fukushima style failures to see us throw away a 16 point lead against a side who had given their best but had hit the wall. Naturally what then followed was a quarter of us trying to give the game away on an ornate antique platter.
They got the first goal but that was no problem, because down the other end Aussie marked 20m out directly in front and was going to kick the goal to put them away. He missed. Played a good game for somebody who looked about 25% fit, certainly better than anything poor old Emo Maric offered up in the first fortnight of the season. Worth persisting with, works well with Jurrah and brings the pressure. Maybe if we'd lost I'd not have been as charitable... Then Trengove could have had one but got chased down and Green missed a shot that he would have eaten for breakfast last year - he spent more time up forward today and thank god for that but he's still had very little impact this year.
Two goals the difference with five minutes to play and I was so nervous about potential lawsuits coming out of this post that I started trying to reason with myself that two draws equalled a win so it was actually A GOOD THING. It's not, it's shithouse but you get like that in desperate situations. It was the sporting equivalent of the guy trapped under the rock cutting his own arm off. Lucky then that after they got the margin back to a goal AND cleared it from the centre we somehow ended up with it down the other end where Moloney roosted it towards the square and allowed Jurrah to shephard it through for the winner. The get out of jail card was well and truly slapped down on the table and we held on to win with the glorious sight of the Experience rampaging down the Southern Stand wing in the final seconds to cap it off.
After first half performances which landed somewhere dead in the middle of "ordinary" and "shithouse" Rivers and Jones played incredible second halves. I still think Jones is in the departure lounge to Casey when Scully is ready to come back but what a third quarter he played. Just like Moloney he kicks like he's got a wooden leg when he's trying to go to a target 40m away but in close he couldn't be beat. Then there was Rivers who was on fire in 2004 fashion with some cracking contested marks. Jamar and Moloney were good for four quarters and Jurrah for two and and a half, but those guys had everything to do with us getting on top and staying there. Kudos gentlemen, KUDOS.
2011 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
I struggled to split the top three in this. They've all got their claims to BOG status. Jamar almost got downgraded for his overnight loss of goalkicking accuracy (don't forget that until last week he was the most accurate kick on goal of any player with more than 50 scoring shots from 1987 onwards #statmybitchup) but look at the rest of his stats - 11 clearances and 19 of his 23 possessions contested. What a warrior. The only downside to the whole thing was that he didn't top his kicks PB and was stuck on seven throughout the last quarter. The spontaneous Soviet celebrations will have to wait at least one more week.
Moloney was bloody good again too. His kicking is still suspect but if you had a clearance machine with elite disposal skills you've probably got the Brownlow Medallist so I'll take one of a half out of the two thanks very much. Plenty of his kicks were wild hoofs from the centre but at least he was getting the hands on it to have a chance of hoofing it. I get nervous when he winds up kicking it anywhere near the defensive 50 but out of the centre he's a gem, and there's rarely been a greater day for the Psychic Friends Connection with Jamar. Long live the PFC.
5 - Mark Jamar
4 - Brent Moloney
3 - Liam Jurrah
2 - Jared Rivers
1 - Nathan Jones
The greatest of apologies to Martin and Gysberts who deserved votes but are squeezed out by the rigid restrictions of the voting system. Second division apologies to Bail, Green, Frawley, Grimes, Wonaeamirri, Bennell and I'll stop there before half the side is named.
9 - Brent Moloney
8 - Colin Sylvia
7 - Mark Jamar (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
6 - Luke Tapscott (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year and Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
3 - Jack Grimes, Liam Jurrah
3 - Colin Garland
2 - Rohan Bail, Jared Rivers
1 - Stefan Martin, Nathan Jones
Surprisingly quiet on the nutter front today, though some 'disturbed individual' did yell something at me along Southgate Promenade. No idea what, I had headphones in. I expect he was as big a Dees fan as the bloke who stands at Kew Junction dancing for the enjoyment of motorists.
I went and watched the Gold Coast/Footscray game yesterday, more for historical purposes than any kind of advanced scouting for next week. Long story short we have everything that is required to beat them and beat them comfortably next week as long as we bring all the pressure that wasn't there in the first quarter today. They didn't look too bad when allowed to link up and run with the ball but when pressured marks were going down, kicks were flying everywhere, handballs were missing their targets. They're all 13-years-old, what was our excuse for the last four years?
They had absolutely no forward line and Lake ran off them effortlessly in a way that should having Frawley penciling in three Brownlow votes right now and despite the defence being one of their alleged strong points the Dogs cut them up on the lead going inside 50 time and time again. Shame we don't appear to ever kick to a leading player so it probably won't work as well for us. Imagine if we had a Barry Hall, he'd spend all his time on the half-back flank.
Campbell Brown getting himself rubbed out won't hurt, but we should have stomped them even if he was there. It's the first time they've played a non-rock solid finals contender so they'll surely fancy their chances of springing an upset at home. I'm not totally discounting the prospect either but that's more part of the traditional MFC defense mechanism of setting the standards remarkably low so that you're either not disappointed or are right. Last time we started such an overwhelming favourite? Probably only thing in the same ballpark would have been the second time we played wooden spoon bound Carlton in '06.. and lost. Well there's an omen for you.
Demonblog will be reporting live and exclusive from The Gabba along with the other 27 fans in attendance. The only other two times I've been to the Gabba I got on the E's with some random freak in a pub the first time before witnessing a financial transaction involving a lot of $50 notes and pillow case size bag of grass and then the next time I slept in a car like a bloody tramp after forgetting to book a hotel room so don't be concerned if you don't hear from me for a few days after the match. If we lose don't even bother coming back because I'll be in the custody of the Queensland cops doing the Andrew Krakouer handcuffs gesture.
Was it worth it?
A win is a win is a win.