Another week, another twist in my abusive relationship with Dean Bailey. After last week's fiasco where he went out to try and defend a nil-all draw, persisting with playing a forward structure that the Diamond Valley Under 12's wouldn't spit on - and a full forward who wouldn't get a game with them - I was firmly back in the "oh my god, what is he doing? What's Todd Viney doing next week?" camp.
It was a drastic overreaction, but the longer you read this page the more you'll be used to that. Fact of the matter remains that nothing is going to happen at this club without the personal stamp of approval by one James Stynes of Dublin, and he's not going to sack anybody halfway through the year no matter what the media says or how much we bleat online - and my god we bleat.
So having gone from SELL to HOLD after the Adelaide game and then back to SELL again last Friday night I'm shamefully backtracking into the HOLD camp again. We can bag out Essendon and Carlton fans for swapping from wanting to lynch coaches to loving them the next, and naturally there were more than a few lining up last night to start the potting process on Hird, but the way this team is playing I feel like that nutbag off Mad Money, running around changing my stock tips on a whim and throwing chairs around the room.
I'm right back to where I was after the Adelaide game - not sure about the long term future and wanting a few good weeks in a row to convince me that he'll be there next year, but watching the replay of the wild celebrations at the final siren made me shamefully backtrack that little bit more. That's exactly what I want in a coach, not just when he's had a shit week beaten from pillar to post by everyone including opposition players and his own supporters, but every week. He usually seems to be under heavy sedation, and reverted to type by the time the press conference rolled around, but the punching of the roof of the dugout was magic. Hands up who else was disappointed when they realised it was water flying off the top of the box and not glass/perspex shattering everywhere?
Thank god we finally got to see the Gawn/Howe show unleashed. Should have happened last week, and probably took Newton's injury to get them both in for the same game, but both impressed and had the rare feat (in the last four years at least) of playing in a win on debut. For #statmybitchup fans, The Stefan Martin Experience is the only other player to have done it since Bails took over, and there have been a lot of debutants in that time.
I did feel sorry for Newton though. To be entirely fair I don't want him in the team, and haven't wanted him on the list since early 2008, but you'd have to be sporting a solid rock, black heart to not at least feel a twinge of sadness for a guy who is in the team, playing to save his career and then suffers a six week mystery injury halfway through the season. Is now surely absolutely finished, and probably knows it very well. Don't know where all this compassion has suddenly come from. I blame Twitter, there would never have been any of this treating players as humans back in the glory days of Luke Williams and Scott Chisholm, but seeing people writing in to the guy with "sucked in, thank god you're injured" etc.. messages made me feel ever so slightly guilty. After all what is this page other than exactly the same thing without the abuse being neatly packaged and delivered to the player's desktop? Half of me says it serves them right for going on Twitter in the first place - especially when 96% of their posts are about the NBA anyway - but the other half wants a look at the sort of messages they're getting sent and the chance to commandeer the keyboard to write some filth back to the community.
Even though there was no way that the same sort of limp, defensive garbage as last week was going to be served up I still didn't think we could win. We did have a lot going for us, the Essendon bubble bursting against the Tigers, the shit record of teams coming off the bye (and don't we know about that) and the "are Melbourne soft?" media frenzy during the week. So there was absolutely no doubt that we were going to come out like a house of fire in the first quarter, especially with SCULLGOVE back in the side, but the big question was whether they could maintain it for four quarters - especially with five players out of 22 never having played in a win and two first gamers in key positions. Apparently it was our youngest team since 1982 and we went out with less total game experience than Gold Coast did this week. Neither fact improved my confidence about us pulling off a shock result.
You'd like to think there was no doubt about them improving their intensity anyway, but I suppose it could have gone the other way with the Bombers blowning us off the park with better intensity in the first quarter. Imagine the obscenity count in this post if that had happened?. But if there was ever any hope for these players, this coach and god help us all this club (in the short term at least) they were always going to come out and have a decent crack at it. Even if they'd done that and the Bombers had gradually pulled away late in the game we'd probably have copped it with a long list of asterixes, backhanded compliments and outright whinges.
So when Sylvia jumped high in the goalsquare from Evans' centre to kick the second goal in the 7th minute it could have gone either way. Nobody's getting sucked in by early form again after the capitulation against North, but at least what we were doing was being built on toughness - and thank god Brad Green was back in the forward line where he belongs. His mark and first goal was the perfect start to stick it up the peanuts who were hammering him last week. He's not getting any younger, he's not going to play in the midfield like he did a few years ago and the only reason he was spending time there was because Scullgove and McKenzie were all out of the side - they're back, he goes forward and Bailey decides to play with a normal forward line again. Result = magic, or at least as close to magic as you get with the MFC. Compare and contrast with the dysfunctional Bomber attack which could barely get near it despite winning the inside 50 count easily with Macdonald, Rivers and Frawley dominating them.
Despite that early dominance we were still giving them chances by the bucketload, and eventually on the strength of a stack of inside 50's they took the lead at quarter time. But as there have been so many times over the years, there were signs. How good was Watts' mark in the square? Perfect bodywork to get rid of his opponent, and even though he spent a fair amount of time playing in the middle of the ground and around the backline he was so much better at that than last week it wasn't funny. Confidence is high, I repeat confidence is high.
Still, I was convinced that we'd probably fired our best shot and would get rolled from there. With them kicking the first goal of the second in 18 seconds (and how often does that happen to us?) and Sylvia looking gone late in the first quarter before pulling the pin entirely soon after, it seemed even more obvious to me that they were going to run over the top of us. But what do I know?
By our recent standards losing Sylvia in the 2nd quarter with a corkie is positively generous. He says he'll be ready for Queen's Birthday, I say he'll somehow be 4-6 weeks by Wednesday if the last few weeks are anything to go by. And Bartram will be found at the bottom of some stairs on Monday morning, having mysteriously plummeted down them at some point over the weekend - extending his injury to 4-6 weeks. Then Nick Smith and Leigh Newton will be revealed as our fitness coaches.
We were still struggling to get it out of the centre, but it wasn't for want of trying. The SME has impressed me with his desperation all year, but how good was he when the ball hit the deck last night? He's no Jamar circa 2009-2011, but 11 contested possessions shits on most of what The Russian gave us from 2003 to when he was finally revealed as one of the great geniuses of the competition. Not to mention that Jamar's famous (by Demonblog standards) PB of 7 kicks in a match was doubled by the Experience. Anyone want Paul Johnson back now? To be honest I don't think anybody not in a mental hospital ever did.
My only sadness is that at some point Maximum Gawn is going to have to go back to the 2's so we don't end up in the same situation as the Bombers where we're trying to force three ruckmen into the side because they're all in form. Was absolutely thrilled with Maximum's debut too - he took a while to get into the game, which is no surprise considering how raw he is but once he did the kid was pretty bloody good. I'm scared of declaring somebody a certainty on the basis of one game, because he'll get a lot more attention next week, but he could be an absolute monster player in a couple of years and not just because he's a 9 foot tall giraffe. Either way has the makings of cult figure status bigger than the Jurrahcane, the Experience and Philthy Phil combined. He also racked up five kicks, and it took Jamar until Round 19, 2007 to do that, so by applying some made up logic a'la SEN talkback callers I'm going to make the outrageous claim that Maximum will be an absolute superstar of the competition by his 23rd birthday. Now watch him do bugger all for the next five years.
What I enjoyed with both Gawn and Howe (who was also super impressive) was their technique of dancing about on the mark, waving their arms in the air like they just didn't care. Reminded me a bit of The Spencil's ruck technique - and hasn't his two year contract saved him from a one way ticket back to Toowoomba now that we've gone from one ruckman to three and with Robert Campbell waiting in the wings as well? Could he end up back on the rookie list again next year? Will be unlikely to feature in the senior squad again unless there's another plague of injuries to talls halfway through next year or he puts on about 50kgs before his return.
They dominated us for the first five minutes of the second quarter, and it could have gone horribly wrong were it not for the dominance of the defence. I'd written off Joel Macdonald pre-season, and I still don't think he could get a game in front of Garland, but he's been immense over the last two weeks. A really good forward line might have put them under more pressure with better contests, but against the wonky Bombers forwards they were nearly unbeatable - and unlike last week where every time Warnock touched the ball the crowd groaned as one you could rest easy when they were kicking it. Even when they were switching the ball from one side of the ground to the other to try and set up the play there wasn't the usual tension that they were going to stuff it up. Even Strauss, whose inclusion I was most surprised by, managed to shrug off one howler OOF kick and getting pinged for holding the ball when Ryder tackled him on the cock to play a really good, composed game.
He wasn't alone. We've had bigger and better wins over the years, but when was the last time you saw us put in a performance where nobody had a bad game? The only person I wouldn't either fit into the votes or give some form of apology to from last night was Sylvia, and I'm sure he'd have carved the joint up if he'd stayed on the field.
It might have had something to do with their opponents not putting the slightest bit of pressure on them but Evans and Nicholson looked comfortably for 2nd/3rd gamers, and even guys like Jetta and Bennell who have spent half the season going in and out of the departure lounge were running around doing as they pleased.
I was also impressed by Morton. He didn't have a great first quarter, but from then on he started playing with more confidence than he has for a year and looked good in the process. I'm no longer expecting him to go out there and play like what I assume a #4 draft pick should, so what he did last night - resembling a fancier version of Daniel Ward - will do me for now. He was visibly a broken man last week, so I'm glad they kept him in instead of bouncing him back to the reserves every second week a'la Bate (who has clearly been given up on) and gave him the chance to get some confidence about him. Maybe they did bust out the sports psycholgist during the week? Maybe he did it off his own bat as a 2-for-1 deal with Mitch, but either way I'm thankful there was no need for Lifeline to be piped over the stadium speakers for either him or his fellow footy depressive Brent Stanton. Hopefully the ex-Sad Panda can build on it and really rip a game up sooner rather than later - if we're going to build from defence like that again he'll certainly get his chance to star.
Mind you, I don't blame him for losing confidence over the last few weeks. Playing in the teams that he has over the last four years would make anybody reach for the Zoloft. And don't worry, plenty of us have been there - I spent the majority of the 1999 season on weapons grade doses of the stuff, and as a consequence don't actually remember most of it or Year 12. Which is not such a bad thing considering how rubbish we were on field and I was off it. I wouldn't blame Morts for lining up with a script for bucket loads of the stuff after having played 12 wins in 55 games, and I feel like I should throw my support behind him and punt his career home but we've all seen how well that's gone for Emo Maric this year so I'll stay well clear.
Incidentally what was with the Bombers banner congratulating Stanton on "150 Loyal Games". Great way to make him feel wanted. Surely by the time you've hit 150 then you're entitled to be given "150 great games" even if the cheersquad don't actually believe it. Strange club - but what do you expect from people who hold a guy to a ridiculous standard just because he wears the same number as James Hird? To nobody's surprise the hypocrites celebrated as one when he kicked his goal. Hope he tells them to piss off, goes elsewhere and commits the rest of his career to wrecking Essendon every time he plays against them.
On a night where 21 men were equal some were more equal than others. Gysberts, McKenzie, Scully and Trengove did as much as the backline did to keep us in the game in the first quarter and a half. We might not have been winning out of the centre, and Moloney didn't really fire until the second half, but those four were superb. The Gizz was sublime in his best game yet, and could still win this year's Rising Star via a rare 2nd nomination, showing why even as much as I (and almost certainly nobody else) would take Brock back to sit on the rookie list next year, there's no doubt that the deal that got him to Melbourne is shaping up as the best trade since Troy Longmuir to Freo for the pick #19 which landed us Green. Time, and the ravages of taggers, will tell if he goes on with it but last night showed that he's got all the makings of a class player.
Trengove too has the making of MFC royalty. He bounced back from being absolutely rorted and forced to spend three weeks in the stands as if he'd never left, and not once did he shirk smashing somebody in a tackle just because he's got a record and could at any moment be outed for 12 weeks on the whim of the morons on the Match Review Panel.
Then there's Scully. Good god. If that's him on 65% of one game in the 2's this year then we must move heaven and earth to keep him at this club. For a club that is supposedly supported by rich businessmen galore why is nobody talking about doing some kind of filthy Vi$y/J**d style deal to close the financial gap with what GWS can offer? It's ugly, it's immoral and it should never have been allowed in the first place but we're not playing on a level field here, if the league are intent on doing everything they can to hand premierships to GC and GWS then let's get down into the sewer and do whatever we can within the rules to stop them. Look at the reaction he got from his teammates when he kicked his goal last night, that didn't look to me like somebody who is a dead certainty of going - so let's work on getting him the biggest deal possible with some outside help and lock him in.
The kid's not considering going up north to wear a hideous coloured uniform and have a pair of ranting crackpots as his senior coaches, he's considering it because they're offering him ridiculous money. We might not be able to match it, but if we can get him a fortune just to take bins out/do a few ads then it might get us a 250 game player and future champion. Either way, if he leaves now and we get some dinky pick 16 compensation selection for him then it's going to be the biggest heel move since Rowdy Roddy Piper smashed a coconut over Superfly Snuka's head in Piper's Pit.
McKenzie, on the other hand, is at absolute opposite end of the class scale from those three. I say that in the nicest way too, they've come from the top end of the draft with every possible chance and are playing silky football whereas Jordie took his chance, came off the rookie list and has been a tackling machine from day one. There's none better at it on our list and we were certainly worse for his absence in the first ten weeks of the season. You're never going to rely on him to get 30 kicks, and even if he gets ten then five of them might be clangers but at the drop of the ball there's hardly a fiercer competitor around. I'm prepared to turn a blind eye to the kicks because I love the way he goes about everything else he does, and I love the way that when he's interviewed he just sounds like a country kid who is just loving being there - no wonder Neil Craig tried to pinch him at the end of his first season. He couldn't be anything less like the two men who wore #13 before him, but he's going to be a great asset for the next few years.
Despite nobody on our side having anything approaching a howler in the first half we were still down at the long break and it looked like the two teams had agreed pre-match that Essendon were a four or five goal better team but that for the sake of Channel Seven and its nervy executives they'd drag it out for at least three quarters. Not that they were playing particularly well either mind you, but you just felt that the lack of experience - and most importantly the lack of winning experience - would count against us. Which is why what followed was such a shock. Turns out that as quickly as Hird managed to polish the turds that Knights left behind, they have managed to go back to their old selves.
By my count it's the second time we've managed to keep a team to one point in a quarter in the Bailey era, and just the fifth time we've kept one goalless. The others are;
0.1 - Q4, Round 3, 2010 vs Adelaide (we scored 2.4)
0.2 - Q3, Round 4, 2010 vs Richmond (7.4)
0.2 - Q4, Round 5, 2010 vs Brisbane (3.6)
0.5 - Q4, Round 20, 2008 vs West Coast (3.1)
Not quite as good as that third quarter against the Tiges, but even with their bubble bursting in epic fashion this year's Bombers are a hell of a lot better than last year's Richmond so it means much more. What it also means is that there's only two times in the last four years that we've really put another team to the sword in a quarter when the game was on the line.
Also shows that R3-R5 2010 don't get half the credit they deserve. Mainly because R3 was won on the back of Adelaide losing half their team, R5 was discredited when Brisbane turned out to be rubbish and when it came to R6 we were shit.
Even when we stuffed it up and allowed the Bombers to practically run into an open goal at the other end they stuffed it up thanks to Rivers storming back into defence to make a contest - and for once our forward line was absolutely smacking somebody. By the time it was over and we'd opened up a five goal lead it was scarcely believable. Even The Jurrahcane, so rightly lambasted last week for wandering around putting in a half arsed performance, was up the ground laying tackles and setting up goals. The only downside to it was Maximum missing both his shots at goal. There was worse to come for him on that front, but at the time we were just sitting there with mouths agape at how easily it was coming to us for once. It was even happening in the hated white monstrosity of a jumper which, even though it's better than the even more monstrous silver version, usually signifies that we're going to be thrashed.
Could it last? Well if previous debacles against the Bombers were anything to go by probably not. They were even nice enough to ask a question about The Chris Sullivan Line game in one of their mid-match trivia segments (hosted by that sellout who also MC's Carlton and North games) so that didn't help ease the tension.
Still, it takes an epic collapse to stuff up a five goal lead at three quarter time. Maybe the sort of collapse that a team who had spent the proverbial petrol tickets in the third, had two debutants, used their sub, featured a superstar coming off one reserves game and were fielding three other players that had never played in a win might suffer? Certainly looked that way after they kicked three goals in a row to cut the margin to under three with 12 minutes of game time left. We could have already finished it off too, which would have made it even more offensive to have thrown it away. Thank god then, as has not been said very often this year, for Brad Green who managed to hoof through that goal out of mid-air to steady the ship. Of course every commentator was moved to crap on about his soccer background (did you know he tried out for Manchester United? No? Well you've not listened to/watched a game on TV in the last decade) even though it was such a vicious mid-air roost that it would have flown out of Old Trafford and landed in Brussels. Was hit roughly as hard as this shot but fortunately not with the same hilarious consequences.
That pretty much did it. They went down the other end and flavour of the month Crameri finally kicked one after missing them all night to at least keep us nervy, but with the backline playing like they were we couldn't be beaten. Macdonald's big contested mark which ended in Watts pulling down a hanger on the half-back flank was the defensive sealer, and we deservedly went on to smash them from there and eventually win the quarter despite giving them the first three goals.
Luckily when Maximum took the massive pack mark over Fletcher and went back only to deliver one of the three worst set shots I can remember in modern times (The Spencil against North when he dropped the ball in the run-up and Holland from the square in the last game at Princes Park the only two keeping him off the top of the list) the game was already won, but it would have absolutely bought the house down if he'd put it through. Shame too because for somebody with a giraffe-like build his other four kicks for the night were pretty good. Was nice to see the Bombers fans flooding out of the ground when he took the mark too. Obviously the ones who left didn't remember the fiasco of us copping four goals in the last four minutes of Daniher's last game.
Despite the Gawn shank it was still the opening of the floodgates. The Jurrahcane did a classic pickpocket with his octopus arms and kicked the real sealer, before Bennell's nifty handball to Nifty Nev and Moloney's Tapscott style roost put an exclamation point on it. Siren, wild scenes, loved every second of it - except the ones where I thought we were going to get dicked.
Matthew Lloyd was having a sook on the radio about us celebrating the win too vigorously, but there's no surprises there considering he spent the whole night slurping up his old club's plums and vigorously making apologies for anything they did wrong. It's quite right to say that we shouldn't have to cop it from the entire football community in order to put in a tough performance, but to deny them the chance to enjoy it is just boring. Much like the diving master himself. The only reason I was listening to SEN was because Triple M had Luke Darcy (never again), the ABC is like listening to 1958 and 3AW's signal apparently doesn't reach the top deck of the Ponsford.
Walking home through Birrarung Marr the only thing better than the shellshocked looks on the faces of Essendon fans was the absolutely trashed businessman, shirt untucked and stumbling everywhere who was trying to walk the other way across the bridge. Poor bastard was tottering like a drunken sailor in a Tijuana whorehouse, clutching the railing for support and finding that the fans of a defeated sports team have absolutely zero interest in moving out of the way for a fat pisshead. Epic.
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Hey @demonblog, stick that up your arse by @deanbailey - 10.34pm, Friday 3 June 2011
2011 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
In complete contrast to last week where there were ten very, very ordinary players who had to be squeezed into the five - undeserved - votes this week is a nine player cavalcade of superstars who might have gotten one. Your top five may vary, but never before have there been so many apologies given out on the same week.
5 - Jordan Gysberts
4 - Jordie McKenzie
3 - Jared Rivers
2 - Joel Macdonald
1 - Jack Trengove
Absurdly apologetic apologies in no particular order to Scully, Green, Frawley, Moloney and the Stefan Martin Experience. If there was any justice in the way these awards are handed out they'd be given a share of the votes awarded after last week's debacle. But there isn't. Everyone else except Sylvia gets lesser apologies.
19 - Brent Moloney
18 - Colin Sylvia
16 - Mark Jamar (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
10 - Jordan Gysberts, Jared Rivers (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
9 - Stefan Martin
8 - Jack Watts, James Frawley
7 - Colin Garland
6 - Luke Tapscott (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
5 - Jack Trengove, Rohan Bail, Joel Macdonald
4 - Michael Evans, Jordie McKenzie
3 - Jack Grimes, Liam Jurrah, Nathan Jones
2 - Ricky Petterd, Clint Bartram, Neville Jetta
1 - Brad Green
Seems like every time we play Essendon I'm the only MFC fan not to have gotten into a near brawl with a freak and last night the tradition continued. Can isolate a classic moment of tension and drama against every Victorian club, but can't for the life of me remember - without going through the archives - an incident with one of their fans in the last few years. Still, seems like once again the rest of the ground was a series of pitched battles while Q33 in the Ponsford Stand was an oasis of calm.
In fact I've had a cracker of a run this year with avoiding ordinary humans. Terrible news for those of you who love coming on here just to read about crowd watch antics, but definitely a bonus when trying to enjoy a game. Should come to a crashing half next week when the doors swing open on Queen's Birthday and thousands of black and white muppets are suddenly introduced to thousands of bandwagon once-a-year Demon fans who reinforce the stereotype of us all pip pipping and not knowing who half the players are. These people are going to have a nervous breakdown when they show up next week to find a 47, 49 and 50 in lineup.
What I did enjoy last night was Essendon showing the names of first year members on the scoreboard before the game, just because it gave us the chance to piss ourselves laughing at some of the abysmal names that people have inflicted on their poor children. At least I'm assuming that Kyly and Jesuha are little kids, because there's no way that the moment they hit high school they're not just going to call themselves Kylie and Joshua to avoid distress.
Contrary to what some members of the underclass thought when I posted this on Twitter before the game it's not a shot at Essendon fans in particular, god knows if I'd wanted to swing at them I wouldn't have had to look any further than the mulleted porkies sitting two rows in front. I blame society in general and fear that if you'd done the same thing for our 'new' members (i.e kids signed up without knowing it) there'd be as many heinous crimes against humanity. For god's sake if you must have kids then give them sensible names - and if you want them to have the best possible chance of playing for the Dees make sure it's something starting with J - preferably Jack.
People who only go to home games miss the ludicrous pre-match entertainment gimmicks that other clubs get up to. The trumpet makes me want to neck myself, and the less said about the flag raising debacle the better but contrast it with the farcical angles that other clubs are getting up to and you feel that little bit better. Essendon play an air raid siren before the theme song (yes, we know you're the Bombers very humorous) and then the Red Energy "Energy Meter" goes off like Thousand by Moby before the first bounce, generally scaring the shit out of the kids and/or people who grew up in war zones/the Western Suburbs.
In other news what was the guy who operates the scoreboard on last night? The following names were botched at various times - Arron Davey, Jarred Rivers, T. Coyler and T. Belchambers. You'd think that a basic knowledge of player names would be a basic requirement of the job, but obviously not. Happy to put my hand up and have a crack at the job if the MCG are keen, but I'm putting it out there that I will be chucking sickies if Melbourne are playing elsewhere at the same time and that I won't be turning up for cricket season.
None of the above means squat if they don't do it for four quarters against the Pies next Monday week. I'm not expecting a win, and you can forget last year's QB when they handed us two points with absymal kicking for goal and the presence of Josh Fraser, but as long as we play with the same intensity as last night and give ourselves every possible chance then I'll be happy.
Suddenly games against Freo and Richmond which were iffy the way we played the last three weeks seem winnable again, and with Jamar potentially coming back in against a sans-Sandi Freo so much the better. I'll take 2-1 over those three games, but only if we lose the Pies. God forbid we find a way to win on Monday week we've got to win the lot and set the season up. Bulldogs come after that and they're probably going to be even more of a farce in a month than they are now.
Last night I was convinced that the players do want to play for the coach and that he can deliver the goods so let's consolidate and have a belated decent crack at this season shall we?
What did I miss? The whole bloody thing is a big old blur to me other than the last ten minutes which I got home in time to see on the replay.