As I stomped home like a petulant - dare I say emo - teenager, furiously punching notes into my phone with no regards to pedestrian etiquette or the possibility of wandering into oncoming traffic it felt, not for the first time, that we were at the sporting equivalent of the end of the world. Not some Wobbies World style apocalypse declared by a Californian nutbag living in a cave, but the real stuff when you've been fooled by one too many mirages in the desert and are starting to wonder whether it wouldn't just be easier to give up. Not that I've ever personally been lost in the desert but go with it for dramatic purposes.
But the thing was that it didn't really matter to me anyway because, if I may briefly digress, the limp, lifeless lump of a game of football between two sides unlikely to trouble the AFL Fixture computer (an Atari ST) in September that we 'enjoyed' at Corporate Stadium - home of the slowest ATM in the civilised world - was just the entree to proper sporting drama.
The year is 1994, the MFC forward line is going bananas and a stupid child who has watched the Monday night Premier League highlights show for years has finally decided who he's going to support. A team that wins titles? Too obvious. A team that has a lot of fans? Very unlike me. No, I'll choose Wimbledon as my team based solely on the fact that I liked their colours, nobody else I've ever met supported them (though in 1994 that pretty much applied for any team in the competition because there was SCANT INTEREST in the world game amongst people I knew) and they got in a massive touchline brawl on the very night I was ready to make a decision.
Not the worst decision I've ever made, lest we forget that if Murray Wrensted the big spastic hadn't missed that goal in the '88 Elimination Final then my "I'll go for whoever plays Hawthorn" theory would have landed me with one of three other teams who have since won a flag.
So, for the next seven-ish years I 'enjoyed' never winning anything (though lest we forget that glorious year of being top of the league in November and making the semis of the League Cup and FA Cup), but never getting relegated either. Then we did get relegated. I kicked a small tree over. Then this happened. Think of South Melbourne to Sydney but with a hint of not only stealing the club but then going around to every fan individually and beating them half to death with an iron bar.
English football is a curious beast where teams are up and down as their circumstances change, it's not like VFL sides of the 80's which were either competitive or sent themselves bust trying not to lose by 50 goals every week. Some football clubs do get themselves into trouble by over-reaching, some adjust to their place in life and do just fine. We would have been the latter, and nine years later would probably have been in League 2 anyway, but instead while some frauds wasted a spot in the league we were sent on a nine year odyssey from the ninth division of league football.
So, eventually via the Seagrave Haulage Combined Counties League, Ryman League Divison 1, Ryman Premier League, Blue Square Conference South and Blue Square Conference National we landed at Saturday night - a one off match to go back into the Football League. Need a summary of why that's so important? Read this post on the SW19's Army blog. Incidentally, the very same blog that has, since I first discovered it in 1999, almost completely shaped - for better or worse - the way I watch and write about sports. Without SW19's there would certainly never have been a Demonblog, and for that I'm thankful even if nobody else is. It's to my shame that I've never acknowledged SW19's on here before, but how are you supposed to explain that you've
So how could I possibly concentrate enough under those circumstances to come on here and recycle the same tired old cliches about how shit we are for the 50th time in the last three years? At that point the events on Etihad Stadium DID NOT MATTER. Ironically, what did matter was a game at City of Manchester Stadium where everything was sponsored by Etihad. A bad enough omen as any considering the inability of any team I follow to get the job done at anything with Etihad written on it, and after 120 minutes where we should have lost it twice, should have won it twice and had the ball in the net on an offside it went to penalties.
Ahh penalties. Last night, and to a lesser extent that World Cup qualifier shootout against Uruguay, is exactly why I want to stab people in the face whenever they suggest extra time, goalkicking shootouts and other marketing department invented bollocks to settle drawn AFL games. I think it's fairly obvious which way it went, but if you want to relive the moments of glory click here but for god's sake turn your speakers down because it was hardly an unbiased commentary.
With the greatest apologies to the last 22 years following the MFC it was my greatest ever sporting moment. Of course if we were ever to win a premiership I'm sure the emotions would multiply by a million and I'd probably drop dead on the spot from a massive brain aneurism, but none of us are holding our breath waiting for that to happen are we? I've spent my teens and 20's waiting for the Demons to give me the "now I can die happy" moment so we'll see if we can tick that off before I'm a porky, bald 40 year old living in Melton and being banned from going to footy because some snotty kids have to be dragged around to jazz ballet practice. A horrifying vision of the future.
Everyone knows Wimbledon have now found their place and they'll settle as a comfortable middle of the league club, so they've pretty much ticked off everything I wanted from them after the
So you can understand how even more than a day after the game it's hard for me to come to terms with another great MFC letdown amongst a cavalcade of hundreds (if not thousands for some of you) that we've seen over the years. Some sides have the disaster gene firmly implanted in their DNA, and alongside Footscray, St Kilda and Richmond of the last thirty years we've got it in spades. So, as this sadly isn't Wombleblog let's step into the Every Day Is Like Sunday Time Machine (available now at the Demonblog store. Free MEESEN MAGIC cape with each purchase), pretend that the FA made the right decision on that fateful day in 2002 and that my entire weekend/year wasn't saved by the combined powers of Seb Brown's hands and Danny Kedwell's boot. Let's try and maintain the rage long enough to really get worked up about footy again just enough to absolutely spaz it and get arrested on Friday.
Worst thing was that I'd half convinced myself that we were a chance. Like a smaller scale version of 2008 when I talked myself into believing that 2007 was an injury-induced abberation which we would soon correct the same logic was applied between the North and Saints games. Not entirely sure why given that we've not only gained more injuries since then (including THE CELEBRATOR and his mystery 'we didn't want to say we dropped you in indigenous week' knee troubles) but that the 07/08 hypothesis lasted all of a quarter before Hawthorn massacred us and set into motion (as if it wasn't already, who am I fooling?) the terrifying ghost train ride that we're still on today.
That day I think we all felt a bit sorry for Juice when he was fumbling around like he had absolutely no idea and we all wondered if somebody who was clearly the prototype of a 'good VFL player' could possibly survive another year in a rebuilding side. Four seasons later he's still there, scuttling around not looking much different. Viva la revolution.
Times may be tight, but not enough that I couldn't be persuaded to donate money to the TAB with another one of my ridiculous first goalkicker bets. The fact that the only players I have ever successfully picked to do it correctly are Will Minson and Tom Lonergan should be warning enough to stay away, but when I saw Jack Watts at the positively ludicrous odds of $34 I couldn't help myself. Even Dean Polo was considered more likely to do it. Somebody at the TAB must have taken notice of the barmy theories going around about him suddenly being the next big thing in defence because he took a couple of marks down there last week.
And bloody hell he almost did it too. When Joel Macdonald took the most unlikely first shot of the game since Nathan Carroll helicoptered his one and only career goal through after a 50 at the same venue nobody was surprised to see it fall short, but just for a second I saw Jack rise with his hands ready to snaffle it in the goalsquare only for some arsehole to get a hand in and punch it away. Would have been a good time for a baffling free kick from somebody running a fingernail across his back I'd have thought. Like the sucker for punishment and exotic betting options that I am if they keep offering $30 I'll keep taking it. And losing.
Despite the Saints then being hemmed in on their own goal-line with about 30cm of daylight to extract the ball we couldn't even force them through for a score and the tone for the day was set. Straight down the other end for the next President of IMF to make Clint Bartram look stupid and not only was my betting record looking poor but we'd allowed them to go from one end to the other almost untouched. When Milne got a second it looked like it was going to get ugly. Not because we were going to lose, we're well used to that, but because it was going to come at the hands of the #1 ordinary human in the competition.
What is it with us that encourages the shit blokes of the league to go to town on us? First Harvey, now Milne and you can absolutely mark it down that the Chernobyl Child Mitch Robinson will have a corker next week. Could it be that we have a list heavily weighed down with Bieber-esque teenage idol wannabees who inspire absolutely no fear whatsoever in their opposition? I'll do whatever human sacrifices that are required at draft time to get some of these hateable characters into our side. It's ugly, it's morally bankrupt and it's unpleasant to be giving a real job to somebody who should be collecting garbage cans but like Saints fans under Ross Lyon I'm prepared to turn a blind eye and pretend it's all for the greater good. Until we stuff up three Grand Finals, then I'll turn hard and flood to talkback to whinge about how terrible it's all been.
Thought it was an interesting but not entirely unlikeable move to start JMac forward. It certainly wasn't for his spectacular goalscoring prowess (just the casual seven in nearly 100 games, and absolutely none for us) but at least he offered some sort of presence and pressure. Besides most of the time our forwards are in the backline anyway so what are we losing? It was certainly a better idea than the clowns on the radio who were trying to make the case for swapping Watts and Frawley. If you're going to experiment then do it for the right reasons, or because you're trying to lose to a Richmond side featuring Jordan McMahon, not just because you're hoping that somehow two high draft picks will suddenly become guns at each other's position so that you can swap them around on a whim and baffle the opposition.
Would have been interesting to see how he went down there for the rest of the day, and how long they would have persisted with it when the Saints started getting on top, but if there was a tactical masterstroke waiting to be unleashed we only saw a hint of it in setting up Watts' goal (three too late kids) because he had to go back and cover Tapscott after the poor bastard booked his room in the MFC Casualty Ward (which is now starting to resemble a 14th century plague pit) by blowing his hamstring to shreds with the exact same kind of roosting kick that he's done about 50 times since Round 1. Justice may have been flowing in Manchester later that night but it was notable in its absence in the Docklands area around 2.15pm Saturday.
I'm not a huge Macdonald fan, but at least you know he's going to have a bash every time. I did enjoy when he sledged Fev about his gambling habits last year (which must have been unpleasant for all parties when they ran out together at Casey last week) but failed to see where he fit within our, surprisingly, half decent backline. Seemingly it's as the "our only other choice is Tom McNamara" option so get used to him being down there while Garland and Tapscott are on the sidelines. Tremendous cockup in the last quarter though when he beat Riewoldt to the ball (good...) then tried to play on with Nick a foot away from him and was, to nobody's surprise, pinged for holding the ball (horrendous...) Wouldn't have been such a big deal if Davey hadn't then enjoyed a massive brain explosion and thrown the ball back to JMac instead of Riewoldt in order hold up the play and copped the 50 which basically put the game away. Mark down another case of MFC Disaster Syndrome - originally thought to have been on the way to eradication, now spreading like Ebola.
Warnock can also be relied on to put in a big effort every time he's out there, but more than just whole hearted performances I thought he was actually quite good. No surprises because he really hasn't done a great deal wrong over the last couple of years other than be squeezed out of the side by Garland coming back from injury and playing good football. He's a good depth option and as long as he understands that much time is likely to be spent in the 2's if everyone else is fit then I'd be happy to keep him. Though I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't share the same viewpoint and demanded a trade at the end of the year. Didn't hurt his performance that he spent most of the day playing on Kosi who was, let's be frank, shithouse. When the SME wasn't using him as a step ladder in the ruck he was down front giving the Saints absolutely nothing. Must be a nice luxury to be able to play with the equivalent of 21 men every week just to try and prove a point. Apparently he was concussed at one point. How could they tell the difference?
It looked grim when they went three goals in front, considering we're lucky to kick three goals in a half most of the time, but to everybody's surprise we managed to fight back to some sort of respectability by quarter time. It wasn't all going our way though - Milne was having such a good first quarter that he even had the good fortune to totally stuff up a kick running inside 50 and have it land in Riewoldt's hands at the top of the square. Is there no situation he can't worm his way out of?
It took Jurrah and Green to get us back into it, shortly before they turned to doing almost completely bugger all for the rest of the match. He was hardly impressive, but what's with the urban myth going around about Green only having one tackle for the match? AFL stats are often as wonky as their website but they've got him down for four. To be fair I'm more likely to believe forum scuttlebutt than anything that comes off that site, but either way they can't have been four very memorable ones.
Jurrah was moving around like somebody who wasn't quite right. Managed to pad his stats a bit in junk time, but it was easily one of the worst games he's played for us. I fully expect him to stand on somebody's head on Friday night to keep us all interested.
Davey, on the other hand was pox, and you don't need me to point it out because everyone from Bailey down noticed. Pulling out backing into packs, jogging around like he's at training and once again getting tagged to buggery with no ability to shake it. He's NQR at the moment. I don't completely absolve the coaching staff of blame either because it seems they never even think of sticking him down in the forward line for a while to try something different. No wonder he's showing a distinct lack of interest when he knows if it's not going well at 0.05 in the first quarter he'll probably be in the same position at 27.50 in the fourth, but it's still no reason to let the head drop like that unless there's some serious off-field action going on. At the moment he'd be lucky - if we're in any way serious about sending the proverbial 'message' - not to be playing for the Scorpions next week. Will probably survive just on the basis of there hardly being anybody to replace him. After all you're not going to dump somebody for showing a lack of intensity and then pick Morton are you?
Strange to see both teams on five goals at quarter time, given that in most games featuring these teams they'd be lucky to be on that halfway through the last. The difference is the Saints would be 5.4 to 5.3, and we'd be 5.1 to 16.23. Trust us to play all their depressed superstars back into form, who didn't know instantly the moment Goddard had a shocker last week that he'd run riot against us? Other than the ex-player cutting us to shreds it's the most notorious move in the MFC playbook. Somewhere Brock McLean, who qualifies on both counts, is rubbing his hands together in glee at the prospect of redeeming his rapidly failing career with a 45 possession Friday night smackdown.
The ludicrous sea-saw nature of the game continued in the second quarter when they kicked away for a third time that day. Didn't help that we spent most of the term kicking to Newton in the forward line and watching him either miss sitters running straight into an open goal or being outmarked by defensive titans like James Gwilt while showing as much fight as a panda. No idea where Jurrah or Watts were during all of this (wait, I'll tell you exactly where Watts was - most of the time he was on a half back flank playing Baileyball. At least he was doing it well...) but surely halfway through the quarter somebody in the coaches noticed that another avenue might be required for us to have any chance of putting up a decent score? Nah, just keep doing the same thing over and over again and hope for the best. We're the football equivalent of World War I - just throw a million men over the top and suffer thousands of casualties in the vain hope that you'll gain about 15m of ground. Not as many hamstring injuries in the war though.
I'm trying so hard to be fair on Bailey that it's not funny, but I'll tell you what if the words OUT: Newton don't feature in our changes next week then all bets are off. He is symptomatic of everything wrong with us, not good enough to play in any sort of decent league football side but does just enough and shows the occassional flash of physical aptitude to scam the club into keeping him on the list. Then at the first hint of a black death style injury crisis he's in the side once again doing just enough so if you only judged the game on the stats in the paper you'd think he was ok. Could he possibly going down as the worst 20+ game player in league history ever to average more than one goal a game? He's the poor man's Brad Miller but without even that slight hint of intensity given by the former. The chase and tackle late showed that he has got a half decent defensive side whenever the other side have got it, so why does he have the air of terror around him whenever the ball goes near him?
I hope he bought last week's game on DVD so he can sit down and watch the first quarter on repeat. With the season effectively buggered we might as well bring Howe and Gawn in - they cannot possibly give less up front and in the ruck respectively than Juice does. Presumably Bate will be in trouble as well considering he was decidedly ordinary again, but you could see just how much interest they've got in him being part of our future when he was named as the sub. The fact that he got a run early is neither here nor there, he got dumped after one game for being shit, played a cracker in the VFL and was then reintroduced only to be - all things going well - marooned on the bench for three quarters. May as well see if Warnock wants to share a trade request form now for at least despite having had a couple of poor years he's got the credits in the bank to earn another go somewhere else where he'll inevitably go and kick nine against us.
That we were only 13 points down at half-time said as much about how shit the Saints are this year as it did about our (usually non-existant) fighting qualities. When Watts got his second from a dinky rolling toe-poke early in the third I even fooled myself into thinking we were about to run away with it. Bartram was on top of Milne (though did he give up a goal with a farcical cross field kick? Two weeks in a row of Docklands slop is melting in one in my memory. I can't even picture if the roof was open or not), and even though Montagna was killing us Frawley was holding Riewoldt relatively well. When even Juice started kicking snaps out of his arse even I, cynical as ever at the prospect of this team being any good, cocked an eyebrow a'la The Rock and tried to convince myself it was going to last.
Of course it wasn't, it didn't and it very rarely ever does. Maric brought joy to the dark hearts of teenagers everywhere by tying up the scores, and even briefly cracked a smile in celebration before realising that he's still the leader of the black parade and going back to the default snarl. It was such a crucial goal that even The Spencil managed to stand and applaud it;
Shame that from then we all became depressed. The late goal to Montagna didn't really hurt too badly, and it probably wouldn't have even happened had Petterd had a touch more luck with his kick that hit the post - and even though we were behind at the last change there was still the fact that the Saints have proven themselves to be flaky freaks this year to give us hope that we could steal it and 'earn' an undeserved reboot for season 2011.
That lasted about ten seconds of the last quarter until THAT Davey-Macdonald-Riewoldt howler, and from there the Saints were off to the races. Our battlers battled on, our fancyboys put the feet up and busted out the cocktails and the Jurrahcane picked up a couple of junktime specials to buffer his stats but when Frawley got confused in the backline and turned it over for the second Cripps goal we were stuffed. Would have been a good time to walk out if I hadn't pledged to see every minute of every game in Victoria this year.
It was a heinous last quarter. Forget the junky goals which kept it close, the Saints finally decided to play like the 2010 model and we had absolutely no idea what to do to get around it. Cue the best part of 30 minutes of dinky kicks and handbals in the backline which usually ended in tragedy or a final desperate hoof into the midfield which was neatly cleaned up. It was horrible and said it all about where we're it. We're so used to coaches who don't have a plan B that we probably wouldn't recognise what it looked like if they suddenly implemented one. Don't know why it worries me, I can barely work out was Plan A is most weeks.
Positives were few and far between. Gysberts was back to his best (so far - a lot more best to come from that guy), Watts continued his good form despite once again being called upon to occassionally wander around the backline and both Jetta and Maric showed that pre-season form isn't a complete fraud. Other than that it goes without saying for anyone who saw the game that Michael Evans had a great debut. He looked comfortable from the first bounce and his disposal under pressure was great - kicks into the forward line weren't much chop but a) he'll naturally improve (no really, don't be fooled by the rest of the list) and b) why bother drilling a kick into our forward line anyway? They're either not there or there's seven of them in the square waiting for a long bomb. No way he gets a game - at the moment - in a full strength side, but good luck seeing one of them again this year. I'm still not convinced that Tom Scully is actually injured and that we aren't being strung along in one of the greatest conspiracies of modern times.
No superstars, no grunt, no ordinary humans, no future for season 2011. There's another three months of this to go, and then you've got to sit through cricket season so that's even more painful. Forget whatever fellow member of the Commonwealth we're losing to in test matches this year, November means one thing for me and that's the draft. Here's my three point schedule of demands;
a) Big bodies
b) Players who are hateable to opposition fans
c) Funny names
I have no idea what Freddie Clutterbuck of East Perth does, plays like, looks like or does in nightclubs but he certainly fits category C. I suggest we pick him even if he's otherwise no good just to fulfill everyone's dream of having a player on our list called Freddie Clutterbuck.
2011 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 - Jordan Gysberts
4 - Michael Evans
3 - Jack Watts
2 - Neville Jetta
1 - Stefan Martin
Apologies to Sylvia, Warnock, Maric, Moloney and McKenzie.
By reader suggestion I've added Russian insult to Russian injury by temporarily taking back Jamar's Ruckman of the Year award due to Stef Martin getting within nine votes of him. Good luck making up those numbers, but with The Experience having it all to himself over the next few weeks he could at least make it interesting.
Suffice to say the Green back-to-back tilt is looking distinctly unlikely at this time.
19 - Brent Moloney
17 - Colin Sylvia
16 - Mark Jamar (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
8 - Jack Watts
7 - Colin Garland (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Stefan Martin
6 - Luke Tapscott (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
5 - Rohan Bail, Jordan Gysberts
4 - Jack Trengove, James Frawley, Michael Evans
3 - Jack Grimes, Liam Jurrah, Nathan Jones
2 - Jared Rivers, Ricky Petterd, Clint Bartram, Neville Jetta
1 - Brad Green
Around the grounds
A big hand to the Bulldogs for leaving it until the very last moment to take the heat of us with that putrid display against the Eagles. Everyone punts home a ten goal performance, except when it's Tony Modra and you're about to get done by Freo, but there can't have been many non-Eagles fans more keen on Kennedy bringing up double figures last night than Dean from Melbourne.
Until the quarter of slaughter at Subiaco he was firmly in the gun for a weekend of media scrutiny, now it'll be pushed towards the racing results by the inevitable "will Rocket get the arse?" speculation surrounding the dogs. Leaves the field wide open for all the real whining about the Dees to be done by internet nutbags (hi) anyway, and that can never be a bad thing can it?
Certainly puts our debacle against West Coast into some perspective. If only we hadn't been shit two of the three weeks since (and admittedly sublime the other) you could nearly write that Thursday night debacle off as the result of the Eagles going absolutely bananas with the most multipronged forward line in the history of generously pronged items. Good side to watch too, not just because they fulfill my footy fetish of having towering, big bodied, anti-social looking bastards all over the place. Would help if they could win in Victoria but I'd rather see them pull off the comeback of the millenium to win the flag rather than see any of the *spit* other Victorian teams do it.
As much as I'd like to see Malthouse or Roos working for us on minimum wage next season I'll have Rocket if he's happy to work cheap. And let's be fair if he's employed the Bulldogs he certainly works cheap.
Now that we've got the pesky winnable games out of the way it's time to start the month long disaster tour which will either see us emerge phoenix from the flames style, or more likely inevitably fall apart and end up struggling to stay out of the bottom four again - in a worse position than last year.
I don't want to be alarmist but there was a stat posted recently on one of the forums which sums up our last four seasons perfectly. Since Dean Bailey took over we are (counting Saturday) 4-1-40 against Victorian teams - for a grand winning percentage of 8.8%. And three of those were against Richmond who by all accounts are actually doing quite well for themselves now and have 10 wins and three draws against Victorian sides in the same period.
All absolutely outrageous reading for those of you who used to enjoy going to your office/school/family reunion etc.. and basking in the glory of having beaten up on sides that gave you bragging rights over somebody other than that weird woman in the finance department who likes Freo because they wear purple. It's not in itself a reason why we'll lose next Friday night, but it's as good a reason as any to expect it.
Unfortunately for all the anguished hand wringing and "sack the coach" panic calls to SEN whenever they lose a game, the Blues have emerged from the trash can as a half decent side. For want of any great depth of contenders this year they could very well finish top four and contend for a Grand Final berth. There's nothing surer than in front of the bright lights of the Friday night football cameras that even if we manage to stick them for three quarters then that filthy turncoat J**d will turn up in the last, drag them over the line and get another three undeserved Brownlow Votes. 2 votes McLean, 1 vote Robinson.
Then it's Essendon who obviously didn't read the memo about rebuilding from scratch and 'bottoming out' (as much as you can with thousands of draft concessions going to clubs nobody is interested in), and who have decided to polish some of the ex-biggest turds in the competition into a genuine finals contender within a year. Good luck getting them in the same psychologically destroyed, nigh on mentally tortured, state that saw them give away all those 50m penalties last year. Hird and his floppy haircut which hasn't changed since 1994 haven't got much to worry about from us this year.
Let's just concentrate on not humiliating ourself once or, god forbid, twice in front of a national television audience eh? We're only just emerging from therapy after that Geelong debacle in '08 (and it's out one door of the psych clinic and back through another when it comes to this club), so let's not go straight back to the bottom of the laughing stock league yet shall we? Think of the poor television executives who will lose out on mountains of coke and leggy Brazilian hookers if we ruin their ratings and cause Seven to demand their rights deal cash back.
Hopefully Bails openly swears on TV again to keep it interesting. No help for me, I'll be there trying to climb Light Tower 2 with my WE WANT MAXIMUM GAWN banners. If nothing else it should get the game shut down.