Sunday, 24 July 2011

The light at the end of the tunnel (is the light of an oncoming train)

When I used to come on here and moan about our dinky kicking across the backline which often ended in tragedy, little did I know that a few years later Hawthorn would make a tactical artform out of it. The difference is that unlike any Melbourne team since 2006 - and even that's arguable - they're skilled enough to get away with it. Not to mention they're doing it deliberately when most of the time our '07-'09 kicks across the backline were done out of sheer terror.

These days we can generally switch a ball across the backline without completely stuffing it up, although there's moments of near disaster on a weekly basis, but other than that you could have pretty much sat home in the warmth and watched any one of 40 different matches that we've played against top eight sides in the last few years instead of paying any interest in today's game.

Surely nobody with a sub-Winehouse BAC expected us to win today (not to mention over the next fortnight), but with the slim chance of a blockbusting Spirit of '87 style run into September hanging on by a thread it would have been nice to see some sort of indication that we're a chance of at least being competitive against good sides in the near future. Forget watching the same game, I feel like I've been writing the same thing for most of the Bailey era.

Make no mistake, the dramatic finals tilt is well and truly over. Even if we do win one of the next three (HAH!) St Kilda, Freo, Sydney and Essendon have done pretty much everything to shut the door on us, North and the Bulldogs. It would be undeserved anyway, I wouldn't say no to somehow finding our way in by default even if it did mean a thrashing but it shouldn't happen and won't happen. If we do somehow contrive to beat Carlton and West Coast (unless it's due to mass food poisoning or a plane accidentally diverting to Mauritius) and then roll the shit sides in the last three weeks then I'll see you there pretending I was never concerned but there's as much chance of winning top prize on the pokies as there is of that happening.

What it means is that the difference between Richmond style resignation to our fate/misplaced optimism for 2012 and the MCG being in flames with Bailey running down Bridge Road with a lynch mob behind him is the last three weeks of the season. Not many people will be there for the Round 24 game in Adelaide, but if we somehow manage to lose that I encourage you to attack not the beautiful Adelaide Oval (unless it's as part of the reconstruction) but to get in your car and drive 3hrs to Westlakes and do us all a favour by torching Football Park instead. The rest of us will like the Thai redshirt protestors who invaded the airport in Bangkok and shut it down for two weeks.

I didn't for a second attempt to convince myself that beating Port in unconvincing fashion meant anything for this week, but I'm well aware that at some point well into the future we are going to win a match against a good team in a meaningful way so why not today? It has to happen eventually.

Does it grate on everybody else as much as it does me that all the other sides who have been consistently shit over the last few years have had at least one upset win against a Victorian side? Us, we've got the Sydney game last year and precious little else. Every game we lose against a local team, and every game we lose at Etihad Stadium pushes the 21st century story of the MFC one step closer to tragic comedy. That we will almost certainly end this season having four year (at least) losing streaks against seven of nine other Victorian clubs is a sick joke. One day we'll look back on this era and laugh heartily but nobody's laughing at the moment.

The Hawks didn't even have to resort to their sideways, backwards, chippy dinky kicking today. It wasn't required because they could be fairly certain that as long as they got the thing forward quick enough they'd find a backline full of red/blue in complete disarray. No point messing about 'setting it up' in the backline when you can just boot it in there and usually find a spare man. Even if he's on a rubbish angle never mind because he'll inevitably have a teammate either standing on his own inside 50 or one running at him on the lead with his opponent trailing breathlessly behind.

In the spirit of writing things for the 50th time in the last few years, can somebody (Champion Data? Surely you're reading) tell me the difference between the amount of short kicks from a standing position to a mark inside 50 between us and our opponents since - and let's pick a random date here - Round 1, 2008? I'm not talking about wild snaps, missed shots, kicks on the run and panicked boot-meets-ball moments, it's when they take a mark 50m out on the boundary line and find somebody on his own 30 metres out directly in front. If we tried to pass from that position the ball would be down the other end and through the goals within 30 seconds.

The most unsavoury thing about the first quarter was that by the time Hawthorn were five goals in front they'd had six inside 50's. We'd had about ten. The difference was that even though we were beating them in the middle and the forwards were putting on good pressure when it did get down there the quality of the kicks going forward were absolute toilet and gave nobody any chance. With Jurrah out, Green up the ground, Bate useless overhead, Watts already turning in a shocker and neither Jamar or the Stefan Martin Experience allowed anywhere near the goalsquare early on it didn't look like anybody was likely to kick a goal for us.

No such problems at the other end, and how good was their first? Breust's tap down to Rioli was the best thing of that ilk I've seen at that end of the ground since Petterd's flying Wayne Harmes style tap back to Bate against Richmond last year. Hawthorn probably do it every week, we've never done it since. How much would you slice your jatz (or lady jatz) off to have a Cyril Rioli in our side right now? He reminds me of an even better version of classic era 2004-06 Aaron Davey before we drained the creativity and joy of life out him by sticking him at half-back flank instead of finding somebody else who could kick accurately and could free him up to stay where he could do the most damage.

Before you knew it we were 30 points down, staring at a Super Baileyquarter (zero goals) and looking like we were going to suffer yet another heinous belting against a good side. Just when we were all but stuffed Dunn got that wonky free 55m out, and despite having to wait five hours for Gysberts and A. Random to go off under the blood rule AND despite having the jauntiest run up in footy history AND a moustache that hasn't been funny/ironic since R1 last year he sank it. There was a breath of life in us yet. Heroic comeback! Not quite.

We finally got some reward for having played pretty well all things considered with the next two for three in a row, but in true MFC fashion our desperate attempts to drag ourselves back into the match were followed soon after by standing back, allowing Burgoyne to wander through the middle swatting away would-be tacklers in Frawley vs Port fashion before dropping it right on top of Franklin.

Chip recovered to be ok against him until the trash cans came on the field for junk time in the last quarter, but he was rubbish in the first. Not that it mattered, because even if Franklin was likely to kick 20 who else were we going to put on him? Surely they're never going to butcher Rivers by putting him one-on-one with a big bastard ever again after the Travis Cloke debacle? It worries me that Warnock seems to be on the way out because if Frawley gets hurt again we'll have nobody who can play on the monsters. Good thing there's not many of them going around, but if we suddenly get the rest of the side right and then see the defence destroyed with one injury you can queue up behind me on the edge of the cliff.

I liked Dunn and Petterd in the first quarter and despite recent abusive comments about Lynden's 'offensive to minorities' facial hair and suggestion that his flying kneedrop in the North game was the beginning of the end I'm all for keeping him - as long as he shaves that bloody growth off. Just doesn't seem to me like we could fit both in week in, week out but, as people are always willing to point out in the comments, what do I know.

Given the choice between the two with apologies to Das Tash I'm taking Petterd every time. Ever since he came back from Casey with license to play in the midfield he's been good. How much did you love the smother at the end of the first quarter? It helped that the Hawthorn bloke took Riewoldt in the Grand Final time to kick it but it was still a cracker of a dive coming from nowhere. Saving a goal that would have taken us back to pretty much the same place we were at when they were five goals to zip in front was good enough, but can you imagine any of our other forwards doing that? I know that in the Baileyball era most of them spend half their lives wandering around the backline but still..

Any danger they might attempt a similar plan with Morton and try to tweak his role? Unless they've totally given up on him staying next season they've got to try something different. Would help if Casey ever played in that farce of a competition rather than having the bye every second week. What exactly I'm not sure, because the horse has bolted on playing him up front but that's what Bailey et al are getting paid for. I still reckon they should throw him at the drop of the ball for the first bounce and if he gets torn asunder by six opposition players then at least he'll have died a hero's death.

The Petterd sprawl kept us within striking distance. Considering the big difference in the first quarter was that Hawthorn were ruthless going inside 50 while we were just hoofing it in that general direction and hoping for the best it should have followed that if we stopped them getting it out of the middle and easily into the forward line that we'd at least be able to stay in touch long enough to keep it interesting. So then they decided to start smashing us out of the centre as well. Which was unfortunate.

The first goal said it all, a shit kick floated inside 50 but David Hale and his ridiculous synthetic hair were a mile clear of any sort of defender and it just landed in his arms. Then after luckily marking it his kick was shithouse yet still went through and that was the Petterd save completely wasted. When he had another shot from the exact same spot a few seconds later it was nearly time to break out the toaster/fork combination and look for an AC power socket but thankfully that time justice was served and his rubbish kick missed.

All that did was hold back the tide for a few minutes. Even though we were on the end of a few dubious decisions which had the people who voluntarily wear brown bleating like idiots they were just too good and we were a complete shambles going inside 50. It took Sylvia's All Valley Karate Tournament style attempt to kick Kyle Cheney's face off which cleared the way for Howe's second to get us on the board.

Sylvia was lucky not to get pinged for a free due to the Cobra Kai style karate kick, but that was the least of the Hawk fans worries that quarter - how about the near riot when they got pinged for the deliberate? And the multiple times they did the "oh we finally got a free" bronx cheers? When they were five goals in front. The moaning gits were as bad as the people who have nervous breakdowns about not getting a free when their side are 80 points in front 30 minutes into the last quarter.

When Bate kicked that goal late in the quarter to at least keep us in touch I was confident enough to go out for something to eat, but by the time I was down one small flight of stairs, picking a floppy chemical hot dog out of the famed Delaware North bain marie the TV was showing the Hawks going straight out of the middle and scoring. WHY DOES THAT ALWAYS HAPPEN? I was tempted to throw the hot dog across the walkway like a rock solid, expensive hand grenade but it's not worth wasting $5 to make a political statement when you've already had one Kaiser's Sausage (PLUG! GIVE ME FREEBIES!) before the game. Any wonder why I'm such a porky? Apparently stress keeps you thin, but you wouldn't know this year given that we've had about 15 straight matches that have been thrashings one way or the other. Could the Round 1 draw have been any less of an indication of what we'd go through for the rest of the year?

We weren't terrible in the first ten minutes of the third quarter, and when Green ripped off Sylvia by marking his kick as it was going through to boot his second of the quarter we were just hanging on. I distinctly remember the same sort of thing happening the other way in Round 2 shortly before Hawthorn put us to the sword with extreme prejudice. Shame then instead of us turning the tables more of the same debacles which afflicted us in the third quarter of that game were just around the corner.

At least this time we managed to get our hands on the ball, and sadly in the case of Luke Tapscott on his opponent. He must have thought he was well in the clear to throw Michael Osborne to the ground 100m behind play with the ball travelling into our forward line but unfortunately for him there's a little something in this era called the "non controlling umpire" and he was looking straight at them. We should have had a free in the contest in front of our goal, then when Martin quite rightly asked the umpire what the buggery was going on they added a 50 to it as well and we ended up on the wrong side of a two goal turnaround. Game well and truly over. Then to really take the piss Sylvia did that horrific kick coming out of defence (not half as good as the one on Cheney) and gifted them the easiest goal ever. Game even more over. They weren't quite at the Chris Sullivan line but if you saw us winning from 3/4 time you were probably also seeing dragons flying on rainbows over your head - because you are a drug addict who should be sectioned from the community.

Last quarter was full of junk but at least there was nothing as farcical in it as Nicholson's attempt at a shepherd to 'protect' Stef Martin during the third. That's where I almost walked out. You could argue that it was the Experience's fault for taking him on and expecting Nicholson to block for him, but if Nicho had put on even the slightest touch of pressure he'd have slowed Bailey down long enough for the Experience to be off to the races. As it was he almost got away with it despite Bailey running around Nicholson like a witches hat and giving chase. It was rubbish. He's fallen victim to the 'story in the papers' curse in a massive way.

Not saying he won't be good but I don't think he's a walk up start in our best 22 at the moment. Still, I'd rather him than Strauss or Bennell - both of whom fill me with dread every time they go near it.

Not sure if I was the last Melbourne fan in the ground when the siren went but there was very little excitement in the junktastic goals we got late. Petterd was rewarded for a good game and Howe got his third, but we were frighteningly devoid of four quarter players - as we seem to be in every single loss we have had in years. Everyone went missing for at least one quarter with the possible exception of the Experience who at least battled on and thumped a few kicks out of the middle.

Just your average depressing day at the footy then. I've given up having kittens about Bailey and the coaching panel. No point kicking the cat based on a loss to three top four sides and fifth, I'll save it for the very real chance that Richmond learn from their mistakes of a few weeks ago and turn us over at 4.40pm on Sunday 21 August. That's when I'll chuck a sickie and sit here thrasing away at the keyboard for a week, wailing about how terrible everything is and how we're going to end up playing against Fitzroy in the amateurs.

Still not convinced that they're going to give him the boot anyway. Tell me who I can have instead (and be realistic, no Mick Malthouse because it's simply not going to happen) and I'll tell you if I'm interested. Who's the next big thing in assistant coaching these days? Is Brian Royal firming up at the prospect of finally fulfiling his NBT status from a decade ago? You wouldn't have thought so, but given the amount of money we're probably going to offer he could almost find himself on the shortlist.

As far as current coaches go Clarkson and Ratten will be off the agenda by the time the season ends, and Neil Craig is so South Australian he'll explode if he doesn't enter the state at least once a week, so find me a 'safe' option that isn't some old mate who wants to work for minimum wage and can apply through an ad in the papers a'la Bailey '07? I've got a Dean Laidley fetish which has been boiling for years but I can just see half of our fans having an aneurysm if he even applied. Personally I'd be having a stroke.

2011 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
There's not much that deserved here. I promise that this isn't some kind of scam to get The Experience into medal calculations but at least he had a crack for four quarters which is more than you can say for most. The fact that Green comes second despite two of his goals being steals from other players shows what a farce the votes are this week.

5 - Stefan Martin
4 - Brad Green
3 - Jeremy Howe
2 - Jordie McKenzie
1 - Jared Rivers

Varying degrees of apology to Jones, Petterd, Dunn, Moloney and Frawley.

Leaderboard
As for contenders I'm closing this off under Jamar unless somebody storms home. The Seecamp remains close while Howe is now contending for the Hilton.

27 - Colin Sylvia
23 - Brent Moloney
22 - Stefan Martin (OMFG LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
19 - Jack Watts
18 - Jordie McKenzie
16 - Mark Jamar
13 - James Frawley (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
11 - Ricky Petterd, Jared Rivers
10 - Jordan Gysberts
9 - Jack Trengove, Joel Macdonald
8 - Brad Green
7 - Colin Garland
6 - Luke Tapscott (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
5 - Rohan Bail
4 - Jeremy Howe, Michael Evans, Tom Scully
3 - Jack Grimes, Liam Jurrah, Nathan Jones
2 - Clint Bartram, Neville Jetta
1 - Addam Maric

Crowd Watch
39,000 and I reckon 30k of them were Hawthorn fans. Incredible disinterest from our supporters on a day where they were likely to get rained on and watch us lose at the same time. It's another huge win for the Big Book O'Footy Stereotypes.

I can see where people who stayed at home were coming from, don't know why I bother myself sometimes. Am holding on desperately so that when the good comes I can say I was there in the bad and actually mean it. While wearing a Meesen Magic cape swirled around my neck.

Other than when they were bleating at umpires the Hawthorn fans where I were honestly looked as if they couldn't be bothered. Remember that feeling? I think it was the game where their members got in free so at least they weren't paying for it but they could have shown the slightest interest. Even when the rest of the stadium was oohing and ahhing over the antics of Cyril, and rightly so too, the ones around me were just dull. The guy in front of me didn't applaud once all day. Is that what happens to you when you've seen premierships? Well worth it I reckon.

If Richmond broke the world record for the most balding women in one stadium a few weeks ago, surely the Hawthorn fans in the top deck of the Ponsford Stand today cracked the Guinness Book for the most people with mis-shapen heads. It was like a Crash Test Dummy convention. Gigantic fiveheads as far as the eye could see but at least they were civil. I have a feeling that we few insane types who go to Geelong next week won't get off so lightly.

Next Week
If people are going to ditch on an MCG home game imagine how few opposition fans are going to turn up to Kardinia Park in the future when every game is live on TV? No issue for the Cats, they'll continue to pocket their $600k a game based on the locals alone. What a wonderful world.

As appealing as it sounds to have the opportunity to drive/catch a train for more than an hour and pay $20 to get in despite having an alleged home and away membership THEN freeze your tits off standing on an exposed East German constructed terrace surrounded by toothless simpletons watching a match you know you're going to get thrashed in I think I can live my life without doing that every couple of years.

All that plus toilets that are practically slop troughs and I don't think I'll be wasting time and money on going there from next year. Sadly that's all in the future and I'm committed to being there next week where I will go Hercules like through all of the above trials before realising the futility of it all halfway through the third quarter and walking out to listen to the rest on the radio.

Players who I'm not particularly interested in seeing next week include Bennell, Maric, Strauss, Nicholson and Bate (see also Morton, Cale) but undoubtedly there's going to be some survivors who don't deserve it. It seems like Casey have the VFL bye every second week so we won't even get an indication of who's worth coming in. Does it matter? We're going to get humped.

May as well throw a few surprises in the mix so how about picking Gawn to play in the ruck and sticking Jamar in the forward line all day. I know Essendon discredited the three ruckman theory with their hamfisted application of it earlier in the year but if we're going to only get scraps of inside 50's while getting thrashed we'd might as well try something different. At least it would take the heat off the fact that everyone has finally realised that the Psychic Friends Connection are a killer ruck/rover combo after two years of them combining from the middle ten times a game. Please note I do not in any way support this if it leads to Jack Watts spending most of the day standing on Manbreasts Hawkins in the backline.

I've got an irrational disinterest in Strauss so we'll get rid of him as well (do you think I could coach?), and even though Nicholson has been ok considering where he's come from it's time for him to go back in the interests of rotation. As for Bennell I just can't get interested in him, he just seems to wander around getting a few touches here and there and not actually contributing anything even when he plays four quarters.

Maric did his usual trick of following up a good game with an absolute shocker but for god's sake can we at least give him one more week before dumping him again? Fine if they don't want him then give him the My Chemical Romance vest permanently and drop him but if they've got any interest in keeping him next year - and his trade value can't be sky high after a handful of decent performances over four years - they might as well play him. Somebody has to at least pretend they're into crumbing even if he didn't go near it once today.

Bate wasn't bad but I get the feeling he's just treading water until the end of the year. He's just not getting any better or more damaging, what's the point? May as well keep playing him for a few more weeks at least just out of courtesy but I'd be open mouth shock surprised if he's on our list next year. Shame because I'm quite fond of him in a non-creepy middle aged man way but with Watts (shit game today notwithstanding), Howe, Cook, Jurrah, Dunn, Petterd etc.. all in the mix I don't see how he possibly plays regularly for us next year. This is where he goes to another club, looks good by association (Cheney! Buckley! Not McLean!) and wins a flag.

IN (from): Gawn, Jurrah, Davey, Bartram, Macdonald (is he still alive?), Blease, Jetta
OUT: Strauss, Nicholson, Bennell

Next Year
The draft is all well and good, and if you're lucky you get players who can walk in and play from Round 1, but for god's sake can we go out and find some mature aged rookies who can either crumb goals or are big bodied and can scare some opposition midfields with their mere presence? Unless we're going to take ourselves out of the rookie draft by dropping senior list players onto it (The Spencil? THE CELEBRATOR?), that would make me a Morton-esque sad panda.

We've been getting bullied for years, and for all the guys like Moloney, Sylvia and Jones who you'd think would be able to give it back nobody ever does - is there any wonder that nobody takes us seriously? Any wonder that when it comes to tough, contested footy games we get murdered every time.

Not every match can be a free flowing, festival of swashbuckling end-to-end football and it's not. That's why every couple of months we go to a match - usually against an interstate side down on their luck - and are wowed by the amazing slaughter that comes when a bunch of nobodies that have never been heard of on the eastern seaboard let you run riot.

Unfortunately we're living in a glory era for Victorian teams topping the ladder, and unless we get somebody hard bodied into the midfield or god forbid find the mythical monster full forward we're just going to continue to have the piss taken out of us. Year after year, month after month.

Scull and Crossbones
Sick of the saga, have almost lost interest in keeping him. Doesn't deserve what he'd be getting paid, and if we're still frontloading contracts just to get to 92% of the salary cap I'd say that indicates we should be trying to offer ridiculous money to some proven out-of-contract players rather than a kid who will almost certainly be bloody good but could also be thwarted by a dodgy knee. Take the compo and run, the deal is getting too good to say no to.

No, he never accepted the treasure chest. You can take your prized possessions and love songs back. His loss, now his Ferrari will have an empty boot.

Final Thoughts
I'm starting to understand what it feels like to be a Richmond fan.

3 comments:

  1. Lyall St Kilda25 July 2011 at 19:24

    Bailey go back to selling ladders. You are definitely not a football coach. One: you cannot allow your opponent to chip the ball around your forward line. Why: (i) it gives them at least 50m territory (ii) it allows them to organise their forward set up (iii) it doesn't put any pressure on their back line (iv) it gives them a breather. OK and then you play a dud strategy that only seemed to kick in after the first quarter. I must admit that at least there was some intent here with some drills evident. It was slightly heartening to see a player turn one way, think oops that's not in the plan, turn the other way in a, by now, vain attempt to do the right thing and of course blow it. Unfortunately it was the wrong strategy and served the opposition better. The best strategy for Melbourne was to play down the spine, at least, until the opposition cottoned on, something that Bailey, you cannot do. A new coach: I'd like to see Rodney Eade who has done wonders with limited resources.

    It was a sad loss because the Hawks are making up the numbers in the 8 and their supporters know it. It's a long time since I've seen such a bitter and twisted bunch of opposition supporters on the terraces. They were still screaming abuse at any and everything even when they were 10 goals up. The next 3 we play are the real deal and they'll barely raise a sweat winning 4 points from us.

    The Scul saga is expanding with Sylvia getting mentions. My feelings are that there is trouble in the camp with the boys having trouble seeing a future at Melbourne. I mean this season has been a waste with no advances and with either wins against losers and losses against the rest. It's so black and white that I reckon if you're gonna play in a losing side with no future, you may as well play with a losing side with a future, be paid a squillion dollars, have the heavies of the AFL backing you all the way and where a win is really a giant step forward.

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  2. I was there having trudged miles from the car spot I eventually found after the MCG car park was closed early. I too was surrounded by disinterested Hawthorn fans; must be a nice feeling when you know from somewhere in the second quarter that you're going to win comfortably. I thought Bate was pretty good in the first half and worth persevering with. However I did yell at Nicho on more than one occasion for refusing to fill the gap in front of Franklin. We need crumbers all over the ground, not just on the forward line. MOST of the time our defenders did the right thing and punched from behind, straight to 3 Hawks front and centre. I agree SME was probably our best on the day, he never stopped trying.
    Darcy was pushing that "go the torp" rubbish on TV Monday night. Give it a rest. KK

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  3. Looks like there's finally consenus on Morton. Poor bloke, shadow of his former self that was never quite apparent in the first place. Agree wholeheartedly with the big-bodied bully (and lack thereof) malaise and also well tired of Scullygate. Has anyone else noticed that he's done SFA since the Essendon match? Goneski.

    Forecast for Kardinia Park?
    Cloudy. Patchy rain until late afternoon. Winds north to northwesterly averaging 25 to 40 km/h decreasing below 30 km/h by early evening. Overnight temperatures falling to around 8 with daytime temperatures reaching between 10 and 15. Rather be at the snow...

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