It's a good thing I now live 35 minutes walk from the MCG instead of five because at the final siren tonight I was ready to come on here and just unleash the biggest torrent of abuse at everything football related.
If you go back and look at some of the most darkest and disturbed posts of the last few years most of them came during 08/09 when I was home, trudging glumly down Punt Road and abusing people who asked "who won" out of cars, before the bile had a chance to settle. Also didn't help that we were a god awful slopfest over those two years, one that was lucky not to be throw out of the league for being a waste of space.
But we always had 'the future' to look forward to. Everyone was about 13-years-old, there were draft picks to come and if we could just rort the draft enough we'd have two picks at the top end of the table to go on top of a #4 and #1 that we'd already racked up through sheer legitimate ineptitude.
Fast forward a few years and we're still waiting for "the future" to come to realisation. Imagine how many times Richmond fans have thought that they were seconds away from being the next big thing and ask yourself if you could cope with that happening to us.
We toughed it out against Sydney last week when they could have run away from us early, and if you listen to the footy media their win over Essendon today means that they've beaten the winner of the next 20 premierships so who knows what it actually meant. What I know is that on the day we were dragged over the line by Moloney and his 300 centre clearances plus the tiring Swans botched handling of the dreaded sub rule. More than once we were exposed for pace by Sydney but they stuffed it up and we nearly pinched it.
There were good signs out the yin-yang but the deficiences were there as well. It's no good hiding behind the "we're a young team" tag any more. Half the teams in the competition are 'young teams' but it doesn't seem to do too badly for them because the kids are surrounded by quality players who bring their A-Game every week and protect their inexperienced teammates. We've got Sylvia and Jamar consistently performing, another level of guys like Moloney and Davey flitting in and out and another entirely of 50+ game players who are either giving us nothing or can't even get a game (Matthew Bate - where are they now?).
I'd love to have Brad Green in the category of people who are there week in, week out - and last year only Jamar but challenge him as our most consistently good, but I have no idea what he's supposed to be doing this year. Seems to me like the poor bastard is having barely any impact on games whatever it is. Looks good when he goes forward once or twice a game, why can't we leave him there? We actually played with some sort of forward targets in the first half tonight and it worked - would there be any harm in having him down there most of the game? He's a good user of the ball but surely, SURELY we have other players we can use around the ball with confidence while he goes forward and kicks another 50 goals for the year?
Maybe not - for a team who have drafted midfielders galore for the best part of the last five years we sure don't look to have too much in reserve in the centre. Scully obviously wouldn't hurt, until he dicks us and goes off to the V>Line uniform team, and McKenzie would at least throw some grunt and tackling pressure in. Then there's Morton who is more chance of winning the Melbourne Cup aboard Phar Lap than he is of ever being an in-and-under player - which is fine as long as he can be a dangerous fancy outside player, and he's only shown brief flashes of that so far. A nation awaits.
We've seen some utter garbage over the last few years but the performance of today's midfield in the third quarter was something to behold. Your nominations in the comments please but I'd rate it the worst quarter we have played since the Friday night against Geelong when they were 53-0 up at quarter-time (and lest we ever forget the bizarre range of goalkickers from that night). Poor Jamar just had to keep contesting knowing that no matter what he did the Hawks would hoover the ball up off the deck and go forward unchallenged. Only Sylvia showed any resistance to the rampaging Hawthorn beast. Everyone else went missing, and while you can give some of them the benefit of the doubt of an off day there are others who are just nowhere near it at the moment.
But did we make any changes to our centre structure? If we did they must have been subtle because it looked to me like a case of concede a couple of points, finally cop a goal, have it go back to the centre and be tapped straight into the hands of a Hawks player who pumps it forward to repeat the process again. Amazing isn't it how often we are victims of the same thing over and over and over again in a game? It looked to me like the only thing we did to try and stem the rampant beast was for the entire team to stack the backline and try to keep them at bay - at about the six goal mark it should have been clear that this wasn't going to work. As usual there were multiple opposition players running around without anybody near them, but when we got the ball nobody could find a loose player unless they were going across the ground or backwards.
Let's rewind to the start though, because there's about 15 minutes when we were suddenly looked like world beaters and that deserves to be committed to writing lest we all - myself particuarly - forget it ever takes place in the midst of all the angst about how we played three-quarters of an hour of schoolyard footy.
Be entirely honest, you know that we were lucky to even be in the game after the first ten minutes, let alone within striking distance. Roughhead got his customary charity goal courtesy of the Federal "Children Who Survived Abortions" Act of 1989 and they cut us up for the first few minutes, missing just enough to keep it interesting. It wasn't looking good from the kick-ins either, they had us covered down field and had clearly done their maths on the amount of times Grimes/Tapscott/Davey kick to themselves before disposing of it because they were all over that little play. First the entire league works out we always kick it to Jamar near the boundary and now this?
Suddenly we kick three goals in a row, the Hawks are 1.8 and we're in front. Made absolutely no sense. My highlight of the goals was the Watts pack mark. It was a quality grab considering that Jones should never have kicked it at him in a million years considering he had three Hawks standing around him. Would be nice if we could see JW as a marking target inside 50 more rather than trying to do finesse things on the wing that he's not all that good at - but that's just crazy talk, who am I to tell trained football professionals what to do? It was about the only time he was allowed inside 50 all day anyway but what a mark.
The truth of the matter was that the Hawks were killing us everywhere but on the scoreboard, we grabbed the lead off them on the break but it was all misleading in the context of the game. It wasn't entirely unsustainable, after all we've had worse starts and gone onto win before (a long time before) so if you'd got the lead despite being beaten up all around the ground so much the better but it wasn't a true indication of where we were at in the first quarter.
Considering the way we'd played for the first ten minutes, and the fact that they'd had 10 scoring shots to four I was more than satisfied to go in a point behind. Who would have thought that we were going to see a quarter of absolutely liquid football.
The Hawks had their issues with injury during the quarter but it hardly explained the way we cut them up for the first twenty minutes. We were killing them out of the middle, Franklin was doing all his work 70m from goal instead of where he could actually do some damage, everyone forgot Bruce was even playing and by christ we were actually kicking to targets. When Jamar took that huge mark I nearly unfurled a banner that read "THAT'S HOW YOU DO IT". When Trengove (not sure how to take his game) snapped that goal and we were 27 points in front I was still in no way confident that we were going to win but at least it gave us the sort of buffer which should have meant we played until at least half the last quarter with a fighting chance of victory.
Problem was that for all the freewheeling excitement of our period of dominance the moment Bateman got that goal - with the worst kick I've seen go through since Nathan Carroll's helicopter at Telstra Dome - the game completely turned on its head. Like a switch had been flicked off we stopped running again and should have copped another goal straight after Bateman the goose hadn't kicked it out on the full from 20m out. Half-time came just at the right time for us - or so it seemed anyway - because all of a sudden after we'd played perfect, cavalier football which slashed them to ribbons for 20 minutes they were about to run right over the top of us. Plenty of time to regroup and come back for the third quarter eh? You'd have thought so.
Then there was Cyril Rioli biffing Nathan Jones. We've all thought about doing it but nobody ever has before. No matter what Bruce McAvaney might froth over him Cyril's always struck me as a bit of a wanker and today was no exception. Looked fairly tame from where I was, and when Jones went down at first I thought he'd thrown a big Hayden Ballantyne style fake to try and milk the free kick. Even having seen the replays it still looks a bit pissweak, he must have just caught Jones completely out of the blue and winded him. Give them both a week so they can think about what they've done.
Of course the grand revival had to start with Bruce of all people. I thought it was a bit uncharitable to boo him on one of the rare occasions that he got a touch in the first half, but a'la Shane Woewodin's first game against us he retrospectively justified it by acting like a tit when he kicked the goal. Nothing new for us, we've been watching him be responsible for opposition goals for three years what's the difference if he's wearing a poo brown jumper with an angry chicken on it?
Problem was that they were missing set shots galore and were completely unable to clear it. Eight/nine/ten point plays have never been so popular. Petterd got a steadier at the other end - and you know when you're kicking steadiers at the 10m mark of the third term you're in trouble - and he could have had another soon after but from the moment he missed onwards we were dead. Nifty Nev Jetta stuffed up a mark at the 50m mark and allowed them to goal and the avalanche was on.
Unfortunately for all their pre-season form neither Jetta or Maric have done anything earth shattering in the last fortnight. Jet was ok in the first half but what about a hint of some of those blockbuster tackles from the Lions practice match? Or is it just that Brisbane are so terrible they let him do it - and still beat us by five goals. Joyful. Keep that in mind next week when you're hurling pieces of brick at the team bus as it pulls out of the MCG under police guard.
Maric hasn't even had the luxury of a half decent quarter. Tonight I'm being even more emo than he usually is but there's no argument that he's bombed massively in the last two weeks. It didn't really make any sense for him to be sub but you could hardly give him the boot entirely after his form earlier in the year or risk him self immolating in the middle of Casey Fields. I suspect that with the way we completely fell apart and lost run in the third quarter that they'll go with a midfielder in the stupid bib next week. Gysberts if I get my way.
One thing I noticed with Maric, and it's got nothing to do with his surly demeanour for once, was that when the two sides came back after half-time he wasn't involved in the drills the rest of the team was doing and was kicking around with some runner/trainer instead. What sort of way is that to run a team? Conversely Jordan Lewis was right in the mix with his teammates - stupid bib and all - and why not? You're all teammates for god's sake, it's not like they're somehow separate from the rest of the group because they haven't been out there since the first bounce. Obviously wasn't his choice to do it, no matter how much of a boon it would be for his stereotype as a depressed teenage loner, but whoever decided that he shouldn't be involved with the rest of the group needs a slap.
The backline went to shit a bit in the end but it's no bloody wonder when the poor bastards were forced to defend for 45 minutes straight. Luke Tapscott is magic and I don't begrudge him an OOF and a botched kick across the goalmouth because he'd been under siege with barely a break for almost an hour - in his second game. Never dropped his head, never stopped going hard for it or gave up. Could be the next Jared Rivers - looked good for a season, looked ok for a season, looked shite for a season, was injured the rest of the time - for all I know but at the moment he's got such an ironfisted grip on the Rookie Of The Year award that it would take Jeremy Howe or Lucas Cook having a second half of the year worthy of the great Jakovich himself to pinch it.
Same goes for Grimes in a more Gysberts-style school drama captain and all around good guy way. When you're called upon to defend a million inside 50's (and I'd love to say how many but the ever informative AFL website is currently showing not a single player stat - because it's shit) then you're going to cock things up and they're going to kick goals. Best look further upfield and ask your teammates why they're letting it come down there every fifteen seconds. At times it actually was every fifteen seconds.
Frawley was rustier than a Latvian submarine early on but that's no knock on him, after all he hadn't played a single game this year before tonight. Not even a cheap intraclub where he got to stitch up some rookie list hack. Considering where he was coming from he got a lot better as the game went on and should be absolutely firing in a few weeks time. Garland was good as well but in a case of the fickle finger of fate jamming itself deep into our eyeball and poking around he's done something indeterminate to his knee and is either out for a week or a year depending on who you listen to. Isn't life wonderful? I'll be shattered if it's the latter because he was one of the big success stories of last season - and if we're going to cop 75 inside 50's to 35 again (thank god for Twitter, providing the stats where THE LEAGUE ITSELF CANNOT BE BOTHERED) I'd much rather have him down there than Macdonald, Warnock or McNamara. Even the Stefan Martin Experience has proven himself too valuable around the ground to go back permanently - and I never thought I'd write that.
The last quarter was just junk time from start to end. Everyone was stuffed, our sub was adding nothing to the run and Hawthorn lost interest. Always seems to happen when they play us for some reason. We did a handful of nice things - including actually kicking a goal or two - but the sting was well and truly out of it. The only interest left was whether anybody in the backline would collapse from the weight of having carried their teammates for so long. Just to recap we suffered 75 inside 50's and neither Franklin nor #2 member of the Chernobyl Child Society (#1 ticketholder is Mitch Robinson) Roughhead kicked a bag. Just stop and think about that for a second if you're intending on bagging our defenders for their job today.
2011 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 - Luke Tapscott
4 - Colin Sylvia
3 - Jack Grimes
2 - Rohan Bail
1 - Stefan Martin
Apologies in no rational order to Bartram, Davey, Garland, Green and Jamar.
8 - Colin Sylvia
6 - Luke Tapscott (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year and Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
5 - Brent Moloney
3 - Jack Grimes
3 - Colin Garland
2 - Mark Jamar (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
2 - Rohan Bail
1 - Stefan Martin
Very bizarre activities in the top deck of the Ponsford tonight. A couple of old men with old tyme transistors radios held to the ear at right angles (don't their arms get sore?) showing complete ignorance of the invention of headphones thirty years ago, some underdressed norgs-out women who must have died of hypothermia later in the game and a kid who I conceded must have been somewhat special because he was wearing a lumberjack flannel shirt, a case of teenage bumfluff so severe it made Dunn look normal and at half time was spotted donning one of those comedy wigs with the tassels.
But the most baffling performance of the evening came from the young couple sitting next to us. They spent the whole first half canoodling to the point where I wanted to yell "I think he's gonna pork her" a'la National Lampoon's European Vacation. Young love and all that, good on them but then it gets properly sinister. It's not quite going along the same path as that famous video of the couple shagging in the Sydney Football Stadium but it's not far from.
Bored shitless during the break I casually glance towards them over the top of my comrade Adam 2 and the young lass has her phone out openly and proudly scrolling through clearly homemade shots of herself in the buff. Being the gentleman I am I looked away immediately and instead engaged 2.0 to turn around have a look. He confirmed that she was indeed scrolling through shots of herself with the baps out in some suburban livingroom. Incredible. Would have been great to be the guy sitting behind her, he would have been having the time of his life. One of the stranger things I've ever seen at a game I must admit, and was roughly the only good thing to occur from the 20 minute mark of the second quarter onwards.
Also worth noting is the shambolic Hawthorn pre-match "entertainment". Was it the game that ruined our finals hopes last year (which is laughable considering what followed) where there was a goalkicking competition consisting entirely of recovering drug addicts? Maybe it was Richmond. Either way it was bizarre to see microphones shoved into people's faces asking them what they'd (allegedly) gone cold turkey on shortly before they tried to drill one from 30m out on an angle to win cash and prizes (and gee, I wonder how long it took for that cash to be exchanged for goods somewhere out the back of Grey Street?).
Today's thrilling offering featured a bunch of members lined up to try and win some indeterminate prize by picking random keys off a table and trying to open a box. As far as dynamic and exciting competitions went it was below "local mayor spins wheel at school fete" level. About four people in somebody's key opened the box and the other six contestants were told to piss off.
Then in what must be the most cringeworthy thing since we raised the non-premiership flag to the acid jazz stylings of old mate in his velvet jacket last week the Hawks players ran out with #1's on their training jackets to "represent the fans" (buckets of vomit nearly followed that announcement) and then proceeded to tear them off and run to the fence to hand them out to the fans. Sadly for the cavalcade of kids - and god damn it I hope they were all kids - who ran from everywhere to get to the fence as if the Black Thunder had shown up and was giving out bottles of Pepsi Max and copies of New Weekly the very nature of the gimmick was that there were only 21 to give out (amusingly the sub couldn't take his off because he had his council worker vest on over it) and so they all did death defying runs down the steps of the bottom deck only to end up empty handed.
Wouldn't you be shattered not to get your hands on a genuinely sweat stained item from David Hale? Yes, you'd just be gutted. Even worse if you got it and it had bits of synthetic hair all over it. Watch out for about 15 of them to be offered on Ebay tomorrow.
The final insult was when the scoreboard tried to get a HAW! THORN! chant going with a pre-recorded video only to be greeted with absolute silence by their devoted fans. If it's a choice between velvet jacket hitting bum notes in the Superman theme or this kind of crack induced marketing garbage then I'll never bag the trumpeteer again.
Do people really need to be entertained? We really haven't come very far since the Hyde Street Primary School brass band used to patrol the boundary line at half-time at the Western Oval or the time an elephant randomly showed up at Arden Street.
Yesterday I realised that nobody other than Jobe Watson, Mick Malthouse and myself cares about the sub rule when I rang up SEN to go bananas about it and was followed by two other callers who vigorously disagreed (i.e nigh on abused) me for being against it. Fancy trying to start a people's rebellion and finding out the people aren't actually interested - now I know how Tony Abbott feels.
So, the #no2subrally is cancelled. I give up. Let's just roll over, swallow the lies and take it up the keister from the league while we wait for their next brainwave built on manipulated statistics. I pledge not to go on about it anymore lest I end up being the football equivalent of Andrew Bolt and Climate Change - a zealous nutbag hectoring people about something they don't actually care about.
Just remember, will you be the person who says "When they came to take the fourth interchange player I didn't cry out, when they came to bring in the 9 point goal I didn't cry out" etc.. etc..?
They won with Gysberts, Evans and Wonaeamirri prominent in the midfield - and in Wona's case surprise surprise that they can't just enjoy a good thing and leave him forward - but the most terrifying thing was Juice booting five. We've not heard the last of him yet I fear.
I'm not going to swing the axe yet in this week's game of Fantasy Selection Committee. Garland goes out with his injury and is, I suppose, replaced by Macdonald. Maric takes his March Champion award back to the VFL to try and get a kick before having another crack at it and I'll bring Gysberts in start as sub (grrr, no wait I'm taking it seriously now like a good little sycophant) and give us some life in the midfield coming off the bench.
Jones and Jetta survive but go into final warning territory. Knowing my luck they'll probably name The Spencil again and this time it won't be a carefully constructed, early April's Fool gag like it was last Thursday night.
Surely there's no possible way that we can lose to Brisbane. It's possible but it just could not happen. There's no way they could put a spurt like the Hawks did in their wildest dreams at the moment, but I'll tell you what if we do something contrive to lose I'll come on here and go absolutely troppo. The post might have to go through the Demonblog legal department for the all clear to make sure I don't get sued.
It's a blessing and a curse for Bailey and Co to be playing the Queensland comedy clubs over the next fortnight because in all seriousness we should end up 2-1-1 and be right back in the mix, hopefully with some structure and confidence about the place, but if we don't there's going to be rioting in the streets and effigies being burnt.
I'm bulk buying petrol and unused effigies from Indian cricket fans just in case.
"Don't take it to heart" said a patronising opposition supporter on Twitter tonight, completely missing the point of my antics on here for the last six years and two weeks. Sound advice, unlikely to ever be followed.