Welcome back to reality. You can cram with walnuts all the articles proclaiming how we were back based solely on beating Collingwood's second XXVIII last week because in reality brave new era is about as close to reaching the top of the pops as my sadly long lost and presumably defunct musical collaboration Fat Cancer Timebomb.
It's not Neeld's fault mind, he's like a mechanic who has just had a Lada Samara wheeled through the garage rollerdoor with 40,000 people screaming at him to make it run like clockwork. The poor bastard and his cast of a thousand assistants are still frantically hitting said Russian automobile with a spanner to see which parts fall off. Bear in mind that he still hasn't coached his side in a match with proper rules.
Last week, admittedly under far less pressure, nearly everything worked well. This week the doors fell off, the tires went flat, the gearbox dropped out and it drove off a cliff. It happens. In pre-season games it happens to us a lot. Even when we were good (an era that children entering primary school this year are not old enough to have lived through) we'd usually get tonked at least once every pre-season.
At least from a neutral perspective the match had some froth about it. Hawthorn are one of the few sides worth watching, if only for the Lance (NB: THIS IS HIS CORRECT FIRST NAME) Franklin demolition show and their utterly ridiculously effective kicking. But sadly what is usually an entertaining afternoon out in front of the TV watching them tonk somebody or lose to Geelong turns into a horror show when you're on the end of it.
Still, it's no less a glorified practice match than when we won last week and the only thing more criminal than the AFL charging us to watch it was that 10,500 of us readily put our hands in pocket and gave them $17 to get in. And to Docklands no less - for the second week in a row. They should have fumigation stations set up on the way out so we don't start to smell like the place.
One of the few good news stories to come out of the night is that if you don't want to you don't have to set foot there again until we play Freo on Saturday July 14. Then it's one more trip there a fortnight later for our annual loss to North and that's it for the season. If you, like me, have dragged yourself against your will to this satanic hellhole on two consecutive Saturday nights console
yourself in the knowledge that you've ticked off half of our commitments at the place this year.
Oh the NAB Cup, so much to answer for. The rules make no sense, the umpires can't point in the right direction and the 10,000 fools who do show up only do it out of obligation. You couldn't honestly say you watched that match simply because you enjoy footy (other than the aforementioned Franklin pisstaking which is admittedly almost worth the price of admission).
I'm not totally against this NAB Cup format but it's a horrid swindle to be charging for games that in years gone by would have been played at 11am in front of 2000 people at Princes Park. To be fair we still had to pay for those but at least you knew your were paying for rubbish.
Oh and we got poleaxed, so that's hardly going to help make a dent on the value for money ledger. Still, even if we were going to win by a hundred (no laughing) it's only the prospect of having to listen to Dwayne Russell, Tony Shaw or god forbid both at once on TV that makes leaving the house worthwhile.
Firstly some perspective. Hawthorn are a fucking good team, and if they don't win the flag they'll go close. And unlike Collingwood they're taking the pre-season seriously. So what should have been two poleaxings in a row becomes one and I trust the people who went well over the top with glee based on last week will now do the right thing and run themselves through with a sword. Personally I'm thrilled to have gotten one win out of the two without any effect on where I thought we were at starting the year.
Lessened expectations don't detract from the fact that we stunk up the joint and narrowly avoided our lowest ever night series/pre-season cup score and while it's better to be taught a harsh lesson by a good team than a shit one but you can give up on any dreams of being in the same class as this lot for a while. Let's work on keeping the margin at Geelong under 20 goals first before we start fantasising about knocking off teams of this quality.
As usual disclaimers apply. The mystifying boundary rules still in place, missing players, random substitutions, injuries, leading goalkicker banned from the Northern Territory etc etc but don't fool yourself that we're anything but a midcard side who could fall into the finals if everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) went right this year. And we've not started too well on that front have we?
Blame last night's flat performance on the Jurrahcane debacle if it makes you feel better but that line of excuse isn't getting over with me. You couldn't blame anybody for feeling a bit low when their teammate is facing charges of carving somebody up with a machete and/or axe but don't tell me anyone gave that even half a thought when the ball was bounced and Hawthorn started dominating us.
Even Magner, the good news antithesis to the Jurrah fiasco, had his luck run out when he snapped buggery out of his finger in the first quarter. Apparently he might recover in time for his dead certain Round 1 start but it just goes to show that the black cloud hovering over the club can get anybody. No wonder the $2m Turd took the money and ran - after the sore knee and the vom shower from Maximum Gawn he correctly deduced that the third strike would probably involve a piano falling on him.
This is the spot (between the introductory and closing waffle) where I'd usually make some token concession to writing about what happened on the field but based on last night what's the point? All you need to know if you didn't see it was that the Hawks toyed with us all night and that when we did it get it was duly sprayed everywhere for four quarters. For three of the quarters we didn't look like kicking a goal until Hawthorn gave up in the last few minutes and allowed us in for some token scores.
Tonight was everything that last week wasn't. We were hammered out of the centre, couldn't hit targets and opposition players were running free everywhere. Classic MFC: The Depression Years key performance indicators one and all. Yes, apparently we won the mythical contested possession count but no bloody wonder considering 99% of the time Hawthorn were dinking the ball around amongst themselves without even the merest hint of a contest.
It's obscenely early to start making any judgements but I've got my questions about this bonanza of long kicking. Not saying I doubt it because a) I know it's all part of the plan and b) fat porkies behind keyboards generally know nothing about football but after four years of saying "just wait and see it all come together" during the Baileyball era I'm not going to get sucked in again. If that means shameful posts where I get everything absurdly wrong then so be it.
Statisticians were practically touching themselves after last week when we got away with hoofing the thing at every opportunity but it was a huge bomb against the Hawks. And against a team who put up absolutely ridiculous kicking efficiency numbers (+80%) can you risk giving away the ball with speculative booting? If tonight was anything to go by, and it's not like you play teams of that quality every week, no because it will end in you spending five minutes chasing them around then conceding a goal. Then if you're getting killed out of the centre they'll probably be down there having another ping 30 seconds later.
Not that I'm suggesting I'd rather see dinky chipping hither and yon, I'm willing to believe that the bonanza is leading to something more concrete as the year goes on. It's probably less high risk than trying to be pinpoint precise considering that our midfield are hardly known for their kicking accuracy. With all respect to the fact that he's going at it 100% Matthew Bate couldn't hit the side of a barn by foot last night so maybe it's better than he is just whacking it forward for somebody else to deal with instead of trying to land lace out passes to leading teammates.
The long hoof into the forward line has got a bit more about it but I'm still troubled by the lack of CRUMB. Four or five times last night the ball went long to Clark and A. Random, bounced out of the pack and was whisked away by the Hawks to start another five minute long keepings-off session. Forward pressure is all well and good around stoppages and when the ball is in dispute but it's not much good if you never get the chance to apply it due to nobody being within the same time zone as the fall of the ball. I'd also like to see somebody lead at the ball for once rather than going back to the square and waiting for it to land on their head but that's a lost art around these parts.
I wasn't as down on Davey as some tonight but I'd still love to see him stuck down there permanently. He did a couple of good defensive things so why not have him there at a contest? At least force the opposition player who swipes the ball off the ground to have to think about a tackle/smother/elbow to the head rather than having 20 seconds to hit his target. Obviously they've got no interest in Bennell doing it, Lawrence is still miles off, THE CELEBRATOR is MIA, Emo Maric is effectively dead and that's pretty much it for MFC or ex-MFC related small forwards. I'm trusting in Petterd/Dunn to do some of the work but for now that mature aged recruits are the next big thing can we go out and get ourselves a proper small forward at the end of the year?
Positives were few and far between but if Jeremy Howe isn't the next big thing in the world of cult stardom then I'm not here. If for whatever reasons cultural, legal or otherwise we never see The Jurrahcane again I'll give you $1.01 that Howe is the next owner of the #24 jumper. Shame too because somebody needs to make #38 famous but there's no way that given half a chance and the vacancy of the number that they won't make the high flying Tasmanian Robertson connection with glee. Either way Jurrah should come back next year, tell Jack Fitz to get out of his number and re-emerge in #48 to remind us of happier, simpler times.
Was also deliriously happy with Mitch Clark considering the nature of the delivery into the forward line and the fact that our forwards were spoiling each other half the time. He was far from perfect (see for instance his first goal complete with a dropped mark and fumble) but did exactly what you want him to do, used his big body, provided a target and kicked a few goals. Should go very nicely once he's comfortable being exclusively a full forward. Would be nice to have somebody CRUMB the thing when he doesn't mark it but don't hold your breath on that front.
And as far as positives go that's pretty much it . With the exception of Jones and to a lesser extent Sylvia the midfield were smashed, the backline had absolutely no idea what was going on and the rest of the forwards other than Dunn (who has grown a beard to at least try and disguise the ludicrous bumfluff) either couldn't get near the ball or did nothing with it when they did.
Watts was just ok but far better than last week. Considering how many people we had giving us nothing his two goals would probably get him into the top ten by default. Small steps. Still, class war is the new racism so I expect we'll still spend the next few weeks hearing about how he's a private schoolboy etc.. etc.. For a club that's supposedly followed by a bunch of poncy posh people there's a nice undercurrent of anti-rich propaganda going around the joint. Imagine when Jack Darling goes off his nut this year and somebody discovers that Lucas Cook's parents drive a BMW, he'll be chased down the street with lit torches and pitchforks.
Speaking of Cook, given that we were about a 1% chance to make the final anyway it was a lost opportunity not playing some of the guys who missed out or had limited time last week. Again we named players and didn't use them (Petterd/McDonald) so why not pick your Cook/Lawrence/Sheahan types and give them five minutes in the last quarter to at least be in the presence of high-standard AFL players. Nothing against James Sellar but once we had been well and truly flogged I'd like to have seen Tom McDonald down there having a go.
In the end the margin was completely appropriate, and I presume some very important learning will come out of it, but we might have come away with 'just' a ten goal loss if the Hawks hadn't been so reckless with throwing Franklin back out there when he wasn't required. He'd already survived one injury scare so when he went off with six or seven minutes to go you couldn't have blamed Hawthorn for packing him away for good. Sadly for us they'd already used their subs and decided to send him out there for a training drill where he tormented us with some more goals. Freak.
Really, when you're 60 points up with five minutes to go in a practice match and have had your bench nobbled by the AFL and their shitbox sub rule why even bother playing with 18 men on the field? The way we were going they could have sent him to the showers and would have still found a loose man inside 50 every time they went forward. Imagine the outcry at league headquarters if this 'showcase competition' was made a mockery of by Hawthorn playing the last five minutes with 15 players, all of whom rack up 20 extra kicks each by dinking it around the backline while our three extra players either run side-to-side in a vain attempt to stop them or get bored and lean against a goalpost waiting for the final siren. Hopefully somebody does that next week just to annoy the politicians in charge of the AFL.
All in all hardly a memorable night but as far as practice matches under wacky rules go one's just as bad as the other.
MFC Facebook comment of the week
Finally, a chance to use last week's intro in the spirit it was intended. I'm creatively bankrupt so if you'd got suggestions of appropriate scenes of mass panic you'd like to see incorporated in the future let me know.
This week it's a classic case of the distance that you covered to get to a match multiplying your disappointment by the total kilometres covered.
Always buy a membership just so you can be the person who asks a frantic, disgruntled question at the AGM. Not that you can do that if you're in another state but I suppose you could always ring in and abuse the board on loud speaker.
Paul Prymke Plate for Pre-Season Performance Votes
5 - Jeremy Howe
4 - Mitch Clark
3 - Lynden Dunn
2 - Nathan Jones
1 - Mark Jamar
Apologies to nil, even the last two are only in to make up the numbers. By stats alone you might try and sneak Sylvia in for a sorry but I'm not falling for it. The reversed free the sealer which keeps him out.
Four Fingers McRookie retains his lead despite the digital unpleasantness but any of four could snatch the title off him in the last week. Luckily the match is probably on TV so we won't have to rely on newspaper/website bests where most of the time they're flat out trying to identify the players correctly much less rank them in a coherant order.
10 - James Magner
9 - Jeremy Howe
8 - Mitch Clark
7 - Matthew Bate, Nathan Jones
4 - Ricky Petterd
3 - Brent Moloney, Lynden Dunn
2 - Jack Grimes, Colin Garland
1 - Rohan Bail, Josh Tynan, Colin Sylvia, Mark Jamar
Boosting the SCG in 1991 size crowd was a family of about 20 sitting in the rows in front of me, 19 of who seemingly had zero interest in the actual match and one guy who gave a half hearted clap for Jack Watts' goal in the second quarter. I couldn't work out if they were tourists or had just come to the wrong place. The theory that they were there to watch a kid in the Little League came to nothing so your guess is as good as mine.
Showing a flagrent disregard for crowd etiquette they spent the entire match letting their kids run riot and walking down to the fence to take group photos while the match was being played. Didn't bother me sitting right at the back but more than one person was seen fuming as they missed a goal while the shambles family were stood three abreast in the aisle giving the thumbs up for the cameras. Mind you it's not like there weren't about 20,000 spare seats if you didn't like it. The patriach of the family got a bit excited at the end and started high-fiving bemused members of the audience. It was baffling.
Then there was the section of mentally disturbed Hawks fans to my left, one of whom spent the whole match trying to start a "Haw-thorn" *clap clap* chant to zero interest from the rest of the crowd and one who spent the last few minutes of the second quarter with headphones in doing some sort of cross between shuffling and a mad Irish jig. You do have to wonder what these people get up to in their spare time.
Still a horrid place. They show our old logo on the outside screen, they randomly shut level three after randomly opening it last week (chances are somebody got sacked for that) and the ticket booth staff are the most disinterested non-fast food industry employees ever. I wish nothing but bad things on the place. Not that I'm pining for the cavernous spaces of Waverley again mind you...
After defending them against my better judgement for years I've absolutely had enough of the up and about, get around him, bloky catchphrases wankfest that is Triple M and am actively seeking a new station of choice.
Won't be SEN when we're at Docklands that's for sure, not until their coverage sounds a little clearer than the ear ravaging feedback fest of last night where I didn't know if the radio was properly tuned in or was actually on 1107am picking up half of SEN and half Radio Free Yugoslavia.
Nor will it be 3AW if tonight was anything to go by. The presence of Tony Leonard indicated that it wasn't their first team but the coverage on offer was hardly a sparkling endorsement for their brand. There was an almost Triple M like level of banter with the 'boundary rider', Matthew Richardson kept saying Trengrove and they committed my most hated commentary sin of claiming a shot was 'directly in front' when it's on a fierce angle because they know the vast majority of people listening can't see what's going on. AW haven't come far from the classic mid 90's era of Rex Hunt claiming the ball had rolled out "in front of the [3AW sponsor]" sign when no such sign existed at the ground. The signal was crystal clear I'll grant them that but the call was shite. Will try again when their A-team is in the box (fat chance considering the times we play at) but am not confident.
There's also the ABC but if I wanted to be bored to death I'd stay home and re-watch the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
Whatever happened to China Southern? You don't think my constant references to them as Plummet Airways soured the deal do you? (NB: the Demonblog legal department would like to point out that the airline has not been involved in a fatal accident since 8 May 1997)
Still every chance it will be signed before Round 1 (or already has been) but they'd want to get on with announcing it soon. I've even offered to do a Gary Hocking and change my name to Doyenblog to match their current BE DOYEN OF AUSTRALIA campaign.
So from Demonblog Towers to Guangzhou I implore you to sign the deal just so I don't have to spend a whole season reading tearful forum posts about how awful our administration are for only signing one massive sponsorship deal.
Port Adelaide at Football Park on Friday night. Presumably it's being shown on Fox Footy unless they've given up by now. Even more presumably they're surely playing under the proper rules by now given that it's the last match before the real stuff starts. Don't hold your breath, they'll do anything they can to shove the 2-2 interchange, ruck rules, supergoals and farce out of bounds rules down your throat until you collapse and let them do it in the regular season without a whimper.
At least it's somebody in our division (we lost to them, we were a month off 186, we are still in their division whether you like it or not) so notwithstanding our shithouse record in South Australia you have my full permission to start going through your bathroom cabinet looking for that elusive cyanide pill you've been saving since 2007 if your beloved Demons turn in a similar performance to Saturday night.
I'd like to have played Richmond somewhere at least reasonably suburban just to see the Emo Maric and Miller show in action. Football's number one depressive has put in another killer pre-season campaign and the entire world has fallen for it without even bothering to question where it went wrong from Round One onwards last year. And Bradforth, I'd love to see him win a flag more than any other ex-Demon going around (though I'll cop Kyle Cheney for novelty value) but there's fat chance of that happening with the Tiges.
Didn't get trapped in the City Loop afterwards this time. That was a positive.