You didn't have to be a clinical sufferer of Melbourne Supporter Depression Syndrome to have your reservations about what was going to happen on Saturday night.
When you've spent five years being utter toilet going into a match as the favourite is tense enough, but what about when you're playing a side who just hours before have gone rock bottom last in the league? You don't need to be a Richmond fan stuck halfway under the 5.32 express to Upper Ferntree Gully to know what it's like having success torn from your hands and replaced with a steaming great turd - we've gone through it about five times already this year.
Still, this was Port. Remember them, they used to be good. Ironically just when they replaced their vile playing strip with something quite nice they went from being a side who played half decent football to one reeking of rancid garbage. A team so horrible to watch that they're alleged to have 36,000 members yet have to cover half the seats in the stadium with advertising tarps to make a buck. Their last home game got just under 17,000 people. We've all been there and it's not pretty. At least nobody has to listen to that Broadway song and dance theme song. The good news is that come Round 24 if you make the trip to the Adelaide Oval you'll get to listen to the Power Funk Squad, which sounds great if your idea of fun is watching 16-year-old girls prancing about (in which case you may be an AFL footballer or Gary Glitter).
Yes, this was Port. So what if we were tonked by the Dogs a fortnight ago just when we thought the corner had been turned, so what if we were coming off the bye - something which has mysteriously butchered half of the league this season. Everything else (where everything = Port being a shit team who should be relegated to the SANFL to play against themselves) pointed to a victory which would keep the feint heartbeat of our finals aspirations alive.
Unless of course it was being played at either Football Park or in abnormal conditions which would dramatically close the gap in quality between the two sides. For let there be no doubt with the exemption of Gold Coast who have an excuse, we're further in front of Port right now than we have been of any side since Essendon at the end of 2006. In '06, '07 and '10 we lost to the eventual wooden spooner (twice in the case of '06 for god's sake) and in the other two years we won it ourselves, so you can see just why a debacle wasn't completely off the agenda.
We didn't need to play inside a sauna to cock it up against Carlton x2, Richmond and West Coast so you'll forgive me for sweating up a bit myself at the prospect of playing a contender for the worst team in the competition in a city where the conditions are so oppressive that players are rotated off the ground and straight into the sort of room usually used to preserve meat.
Sitting in the loungeroom of our visiting Brisbane correspondant @amul82, I discovered what would become the number one prop of the evening a Nintendo Wii gun which, when it wasn't being jammed into toasters for photo opportunities, was waved around my head in angst or aimed at the screen whenever something went wrong.
During the last quarter I forgot I was even doing it such was the stroke-inducing angst that they were putting me through. When Stef Martin banged through the sealer I realised that I was sitting there like an idiot waving a plastic gun around like Tony Montana. It stopped me from throwing something across somebody else's loungeroom.
Thankfully despite all the ingredients for a shambles being on hand we managed to get it right in the end. We are not Richmond and generally save our humiliations for when we play good sides. Mind you for a match where we were never less than two goals in front at any time after the five minute mark of the first quarter it was all a bit too close for comfort.
From the first bounce it was obvious to everybody that we were the better side by a million miles. Or if you wish the distance between Darwin and Yuendumu, which you wouldn't know was almost the same distance as between Melbourne and Brisbane for the amount of effort the commentators spent trying to talk up how the Jurrahcane was playing "at home".
One thing you could say for Jurrah's "home ground advantage", other than the fact that he'd once kicked 7 in a local game there, was that at least you could be sure he'd be unconcerned by having his plum region sweat up like the insides of a greenhouse. Who knew about the rest of them though, and as we were reminded every 20 seconds Port had spent the last month running their players through intense sessions in Bikram Yoga style hot rooms to prepare them for the top end conditions. Must have been a big help for the other three games in the last month when they were playing in freezing winter conditions. Did that one come from Dean Laidley across Skype shortly before he did the (poolparty) logo and went off to do something more fulfilling than be involved with Port.
At least for all of Laidley's internet based assistant coaching methods he wasn't insane enough to try and take the senior coaching job. Poor Matthew Primus. He's sitting there in the coaches box, next to Matthew Bishop of all people, wondering if he's going to go down in history alongside Peter Rohde (coincidentally now working as the Football Operations Manager of... Port Adelaide) as the most unfortunate caretaker coach of the last 15 years, and not only does he look like he's about to jump out the window with depression but then he's got Tim Lane trying to convince us all that he's some sort of dangerous freak who's about to commit murder.
The evidence for this claim - pushed for the entire first half before they once showed Bailey, Scott West and else somebody who was obscured by a partition - was that he was shown once in the first quarter banging the phone off his hand with the barest of force. Given the position that he's found himself in, coaching a skint club with players like Mitch Banner (who?), Cameron O'Shea (WHO!?) and Ben Jacobs (surely they're taking the piss?) you'd forgive him if he stopped coaching and started kicking holes in the dinky little room that they had him in. But who'd notice if he stopped? And who'd pay the cost for repairs when Port go bust and offer their creditors five cents in the dollar. At least the stadium is sponsored by an insurance company.
Now, we all know Channel Ten are tanking even more furiously than the Melbourne Football Club circa 2009 but how many times did you think about furiously ramming your boot through the TV set? My highlight was Tim Lane, still smarting from Carlton's loss, suggesting Port were "morally in front" about 30 seconds before we kicked five in a row. Ridiculous statements about moral victories belong on rank amateur blogs like this, not by people who do this stuff for a living.
Almost as helpful was longtime Demonblog nemesis, and author of the worst article ever written, Luke Darcy declaring us all but home shortly before Port started storming home. I'd have thought that as a commentator you'd have reviewed what happened last year and would realise that Port put in a blistering comeback in identical conditions and were every possible chance of doing the same again. Apparently not. Would have thought that would actually have kept people watching instead of turning over to the golf. Apparently not.
I suppose it's rude to complain about the commentators when realistically we should have been watching Fox Sports and listening to Dwayno gurgling about firestarters, shortings and the breaking out of hundreds and thousands. In the North vs Bulldogs game on Sunday he prematurely screamed that a shot on goal late on game was "THE KILL SHOT!" before it missed, and instead of packing away his latest attempt at a shithouse cliche he awkwardly did it again when North really did deliver "THE KILL SHOT!1!!!!" a minute later. Next to him Darcy is practically Richie Benaud.
Sad for Channel 10 that they'll have to go back to showing repeats of The Spy Who Loved Me ad nauseum on Saturday nights next season and that they're going out being forced to show minority interest matches like this, but you can't say from their performance that they didn't deserve it. Surely even before the start of the season when West Coast were projected to be garbage again and everyone had come to terms with St Kilda being as boring as batshit they'd have thought that a game between Melbourne (8th best supported side in Victoria) vs Port Adelaide (stop! stop! stop! top! top! top! At least one of the two..) wouldn't draw much of a TV audience at 8.30 Saturday.
Either way I don't know what it rated but if it was less than a double episode of Cops they got what they deserved. At least unlike Port, Cops has a classic theme song.
You'd not expect much about the match itself on here would you? Google any of tedious, lacklustre or insignificant and you'll get a full replay of last night which you can go right ahead and ignore. Name A Game might sell a copy to Mitch Banner's mum or the Emo Maric Fan Club might buy a copy to watch on the steps of Flinders Street Station but realistically it was that awful combination of a rubbish team dragging a mid-range side down to their level with the added bonus of half the players dying in the arse from the weather halfway through.
I could tell it was going to be a good night for me at least when Petterd and Maric got the first two goals. With the exception of the Stefan Martin Experience, who I think everyone else is on board with now, and Green who is admittedly up and down like the proverbial I've not been as worried more about anything this year than my thinly disguised love for Ricky and the Emo ending with them both out of the side and going nowhere. It happened a few weeks ago and watching them both cut it up for Casey I almost had to join the Morton family anti-depressant discount theme to cope.
When Maric was named I expected him to be the sub but obviously they thought he might do self harm if forced to don the green vest again this year and he started. Thank god for that too because he was great. Both of them can crumb, both can push up into the midfield, both will probably put in a shocker next week, get dropped and walk out at the end of next year. Let's hope they give Maric a decent run this time, he was stiff to get dropped after the Carlton game considering in the three matches before he'd had 31 touches, three goals and two goals. He plays one ordinary game, Mick Malthouse calls him a cheat and suddenly we don't see him for two months. Rubbish. If you dropped every one of our players who put in a shocker you'd have to turn over half the side some weeks.
Meanwhile look what I found on Google images, proof that in 2008 he was absolutely thrilled with life. This is what our club will do to a young man, don't let Scully see it.
Howe was sub, and on that note I've been made aware of a new trend where gentleman who are batting massively above their average are being referred to as a "Jeremy". Not because our man couldn't walk into any garbage suburban nightclub and clean up with the birds, but because it's a corruption of "how(e) did he get her?" I'm getting behind it, especially because in the various times during the match when I lost interest in what was happening on-field we switched to picking out Jeremy's in the crowd instead. There were hundreds, which was impressive considering how few people were there.
Despite Jurrah getting overly excited at playing in front of his "home" audience (#statmybitchup distance fact - he was as far away from home as Seattle is from Los Angeles) and hitting the post trying to do a dinky rolling kick into an open goalsquare we were all over them. Four goals to nil, and with Port's delivery inside 50 absolutely putrid I was nearly reaching for the record books to find the last time we kept an opposition side scoreless in the first quarter (Round 10, 1994 apparently) when Gysberts turned it over going forward and Port got one on the rebound.
For all our domination early it was Comeback Week all around the league, and based on what happened in the final term last year the last thing we needed to do was run ourselves into the ground dominating them for 15 minutes without making it count. Thank god then for Port's rank goalkicking and their habit of missing sitters. At the other end Petterd was snapping them out of his arse, Jones was hitting set shots from 50 and Nicholson was booting them on the run from outside 50. Finally a game where things go our way, any danger this might happen against one of the eight Victorian teams we've never beaten in the Baileyball era.
When Jurrah got the first of the second quarter it probably looked to the casual observer that it was as good as over. We knew better. He could have had another one 30 seconds later and even though he missed we were running all over them. The way we were running out the backline unchallenged, often accompanied by Chip Frawley storming through a nest of Port forwards, swatting them out of the way with minimum effort, and going through the midfield with no teal clad future SANFL superstars within the same area code we'd have won by 150 if Lance Franklin had been down there. If Jack Riewoldt was sitting in Cairns Airport watching it on TV he'd have screamed obscenities at his teammates and ask why they couldn't give him that sort of service against the league's easybeats.
We didn't have the tools to really smash them up front, but they didn't have much quality anywhere. If Jurrah had nearly ended it, Green might have made it even uglier and given us a buffer that would have guarded against the inevitable humidity induced fadeout. Then came the runner debacle. Was that the first time you've ever seen us give away a runner free? I'm sure we've never had an interchange infringement, and I can't remember us ever having a runner stuff up before either. We've certainly never had one where the runner was lagged out by the captain. Poor Brad, he just saw somebody in fluro sprint past him and automatically assumed it couldn't possibly be one of ours. Surely the umpire would have noticed anyway, but Brad's captain's accusation didn't help his cause.
They could have made us pay from there if they were any good. Reminded me of so many times over the last few years, especially in the dark times, where we were in the same situation - hanging on and looking half decent but not good enough to make it count. Not like they weren't getting it forward either but more rubbish kicking for goal cost them. They finally got it right and put together two in a row and we might have been in even more trouble if Jurrah hadn't used his local knowledge (London to Budapest, Johannesburg to Lusaka, you get the idea) to take a huge grab just before half time. He provided further insulation against a fiasco by casually steering it through in traditional Jurrahcane fashion.
The backline was holding up well enough but apart from Frawley and Rivers it was more luck than skill based on the rubbish their opposition were serving up. Garland had an ordinary night, Strauss was good in 'defensive' situations but still scares the shit out of me when he's disposing of it and Morton.. well he was Mortonish.
I'll admit when he flew through for the holding ball in the middle of the ground early in the game I thought that the corner might have been turned, but just like the Carlton game his piece of quality pressure at the start of the game was followed with 3.5 quarters where he looked lost and confused. I feel sorry for the guy but surely the time has come where it's clear that he's not about to burst back onto the scene with vengeance. Who knows if he's going to be there next year, and I hope with a full preseason and a truckload of Prozac and KFC Dinner Box meals stuffed down his gullet he will be, but he's offering next to nothing at the moment and as there's clearly no interest in trying him in a different role then there's really no point playing him.
I'll tell you this, if he's in the team in Geelong and ends up going forward and kicking goals at Kardinia Park again then the next week he's a a flank fluffing handballs I'll go around to the coaches box and brick it. Having the second worst win/loss record of any player in the comp can't be easy (and if you need proof ask the only person in front of him, M. Warnock of Cranbourne) but surely it's time to turn the corner with everybody else. If you see him in the streets give him a big hug for me.
Given the conditions the third quarter was probably about as good as we were ever going to get. While Channel 10 continued to try and convince us that Primus was going straight out of the ground and into the outback to abduct backpackers the Emo got the first to generally wild celebrations (don't be stupid, the celebrations were all mine) then Port kicked themselves out of it for a second time. They did get two in a row to keep it within reason, but when Emo Fever reached its crescendo with his third goal the floodgates were open and we were out to 45 points (nearly #chrissullivanline territory) before they got the last one of the quarter.
Still, 39 points. At the MCG you'd probably allow yourself to get excited over that sort of lead, but in Darwin? Bugger that. Last year it was 32 points and that ended with Colin Sylvia taking centre bounces and an exhausted Jamar conversing with Leigh Colbert in seated position after the final siren. Don't forget, as we were reminded every five seconds whenever they weren't linking Primus to September 11, Port had spent the last month in a hot room. Rumor has it Port are already onto their third final notice for the electricity bill so that won't help.
The prospect of a soul/property/plastic gun destroying comeback wouldn't have been an issue if Petterd had kicked the first, but he'd been so good elsewhere I was willing to forgive. How much did you love the blind turn picking the ball up on half-back flank in the 2nd quarter? He's never going to win Brownlows but he's the kind of guy who will be an absolute star in a good side. Now to produce the good side for him to star in.
Then as predicted Port made it interesting, very interesting and then far too interesting for my liking when Cassisi kicked their third in a row despite me shamefully, and pointlessly, yelling "CHEWY ON YOUR UNBORN CHILD" at the TV screen during his run-in. Two more and it was officially more interesting than a chicken dinner with Stephen Hawking.
Still, even though there was more than enough time for them to run over the top of us with ease the only time I was properly concerned was when they cut to the coaches box for the 50th time and Bailey was sitting there doing disco finger motions at Scott West. I don't know if he was describing a piece of tactical genius or bragging about cleaning up at the Chevron but whatever it was worked because just seconds later we were down the other end with the Experience running into an open goal to seal it. And what a path it took to get there, poor old Hamish Hartlett managing to kick out on the full with the ball only travelling about 3 metres off his boot.
Stef was mighty in the last quarter. Even as one of three people in the world with his number on their jumper I didn't think he was capable of some of the shit he's pulled off this year. In all senses of the word he's a guru and long may he reign. I'm not legally allowed to suggest that when your Census form arrives on August 9 that you should write your religion as THE STEFAN MARTIN EXPERIENCE but it would be appropriate. We have come a long, long way from last year's corresponding fixture where The Spencil was a late withdrawal and Jamar was run into the ground with only failed cameos from the triple towers of Dunn/Sylvia/Miller to give him any help.
That was pretty much it for Port. They didn't fire another shot after the SME ripped their hearts out. Primus didn't knife anybody in the spine with an icepick, Bailey and West never decided which nightclub in Darwin they were going out to after and the Channel 10 commentary team showed such distain for having to be in Darwin that they were nearly cheering for the lights to go out again.
All's well that ends well, we got the four points and instead of jamming a fork into the toaster I did the sensible thing and made toast instead. We still had bits of rock solid, charred bread left over to hurl at the TV when Andy Maher and Matthew Lloyd came on for the 5th Quarter.
2011 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Ricky Petterd
4 - Colin Sylvia
3 - Stefan Martin
2 - James Frawley
1 - Addam Maric
Apologies to Trengove, Green, Moloney, Jones, McKenzie and Jurrah.
Sylvia retakes the lead and opens up a handy gap, but all the action is in the land of the giants where in the biggest upset since Richmond's last shock loss to an expansion team the 30-1 pre-season shot Stefan Martin Experience has nudged in front of Jamar in the Stynes Medal count. Rumour has it the same guy who dropped a mil on Geelong is down another mil if the Russian doesn't get up.
27 - Colin Sylvia
23 - Brent Moloney
19 - Jack Watts
17 - Stefan Martin (OMFG LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
16 - Mark Jamar, Jordie McKenzie
13 - James Frawley (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
11 - Ricky Petterd
10 - Jordan Gysberts, Jared Rivers
9 - Jack Trengove, Joel Macdonald
7 - Colin Garland
6 - Luke Tapscott (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
5 - Rohan Bail
4 - Michael Evans, Brad Green, Tom Scully
3 - Jack Grimes, Liam Jurrah, Nathan Jones
2 - Clint Bartram, Neville Jetta
1 - Jeremy Howe, Addam Maric
Scull and Crossbones
Tagged to buggery again, subbed at 3/4 time with a back injury (insert quotation marks if you're doing conspiracy theories) and then apparently unseen when the song was being sung. I missed the last one because ceremonial toast was being prepared but we'll put the tinfoil hat theories to one side (for once) and just assume that his injury meant that forming a circle and belting out a tune wasn't an option. Never a dull moment when this kid is involved.
For those of you who joined in the Tom's Treasure Chest frenzy during the week and held out hope that Velocity Sports passing the link onto him meant that he'd come out, grab the TIO Stadium house mic and announce that he was so moved at the offer of a karate kid style headband found in a charity bin in the Solomon Islands that he'd agreed to stay on a five year contract I am sad to report that we haven't yet heard back from him or his management.
Perhaps the most moving aspect of the entire campaign was this specially written love song which is destined to storm the Aria Top 40 at any minute.
Anyway, despite the best efforts of the MFC internet community we're no closer to knowing if he's off to pocket a fortune or staying to pocket a slightly smaller fortune. What we know now is that deserved or not we get a pair of first round picks if he goes. Given how we'll get bugger all out of the draft next year, presumably won't be finishing in the lower rungs of the ladder afterwards and have stuffed up enough late first round picks to fill Manuka Oval you'd rather keep Tom for his third year with a full pre-season under his belt, but if he's that keen on going north and beating Richmond then life will go on. Maybe the prospect of playing for a side that sells its home games to Canberra and not a Swedish sauna will appeal? In all fairness I'd probably be bitter if I stayed for $300k less a year and then got told I had to go and spend half my night running around in 70% humidity and the other half gingerly riding an exercise bike in a hastily assembled cool room.
Tom, if you're reading just scroll back up and have a look at the Allen Jakovich Medal leaderboard. If you personally accept the Treasure Chest you'll get a free 20 votes which will put you within striking distance of the most prestigious prize in football. Have you noticed how all the MFC awards are named after great ex-players? Trophies named after legends of the game in West Sydney include... err... anybody... May as well call it the Andrew Demetriou Medal, nobody will ever do as much for them as he has.
Very ordinary turnout, but what do you expect from the provinces when you keep sending unpopular teams there? If you really want to pack the joint out send Collingwood there. Of course that's never going to happen.
The selling of games is a necessary evil but is there any chance we might start flogging them somewhere with a climate that doesn't resemble Bangkok? All the good spots in Australia are taken, but could we make a buck out of New Zealand? What could lift their shattered national spirits more than a visit from the Experience?
Surely you'd get more than the 7500 that showed up Saturday night if you could find a ground to play on without making it some sort of farce with 40m lines and fences directly on top of the boundary line. We are 1-0 in Wellington....
OUT: Morton, Strauss (omit), Scully (inj?)
IN: God knows. Would have thought Blease was a natural but was apparently very ordinary during the Fev show at Casey. Bartram and Dunn must be pressing, though I'm not sure what Dunn can do with Petterd and Maric in front of him. Davey and Macdonald would have to be a chance if fit. Either way there's nothing surer than if Morton plays he's either delivered a "play me or I leave" ultimatums or has incriminating photos of somebody.
I reckon there's some danger of Bate for Howe as well. Not exactly thrilled by the prospect but I won't start a picket line outside the MCG if it happens, Bater deserves another chance before the end of the year and better he gets it next week than at Geelong when all 22 are going to look like spew.
I've been on the Bailey Ladders Ladder Predictor and the bad news is that if everything goes as expected it's the Bailey Ladder that predicts Bailey might be in trouble.
I've got us losing the next four, winning the last three and finishing 11th, a game out of 8th. Switching the result of the West Coast game gets us in as long as we have decent sized victories over both Gold Coast and Port. Pointless exercise really, because how often do all the results go as expected? What it tells me is that if we've got any interest in playing finals we're either going to have to crack the everyone but Richmond/Essendon hoodoo or the Etihad Stadium hoodoo.
Still, I stand by my prediction that whether you, me or the rest of the internet nutbags and the media like it or not Stynes won't sack Bailey if it's a lineball decision. If we miss by half a game, percentage or similar they're going to err on the side of caution instead of pressing reset and hoping that [insert name here] is going to come in and have instant success.
Ask me again when we get exposed multiple times in the next four weeks and/or lose to Port in R24 but I'm not entirely concerned if he goes on again next year. Issue is do you sign somebody for two years knowing that it'll get ugly if we don't make the 8 next year or do you sign him for one year and send the message that we don't really have any confidence but we couldn't get anybody else.
The North game will come back to haunt us. Injury crisis or not we had the boot on their throat in that game and didn't put them away. I can brainwash myself into believing that we ran into St Kilda and Footscray just as they were coming back into form, but there were no such excuses against North. Losing Bail and Garland didn't help, but we played a shite last three quarters when we should have already had the game won. It's not like we were even close to winning any of the other games that we've lost this year (notwithstanding Jurrah's junk time rampage against St Kilda) and if anything should have lost to Sydney so the North game could very well be the difference in the final equation.
I'm expending a lot of psychic energy working out ways to sneak into the eight where we will presumably get belted in the first round (possibly in Perth) but as long as we don't get thrashed next week I'll keep dreaming until at least the Richmond game. If Hawthorn murder us next week and we lose any important players to injury in being thrashed by Geelong and Carlton how can we possibly hope to win three of the last four to even be half a chance? Just close your eyes and pretend there's a way.
Roll on 2012 when we can afford to get really snippy/start microwaving memberships if things go wrong.
Was it worth it?
In that I didn't have to run around for two hours in 70% humidity and got to eat celebratory toast at the final siren, yes.
The next month concerns me.