Sunday, 1 April 2012

You've got to laugh (again)

Actually, no you don't. But nor do you have to set fire to a pair of novelty devil horns and toss them through the windows of the Demon Shop in the dead of night. Yet. Best stockpile petrol just in case though, because we've just had it confirmed that there's going to be an extended period of ugliness before things get better.

You don't have to tell me this, I picked us to come 13th. Still doesn't mean that there's not a hollow feeling about what happened today and enormous questions over both a large group of our senior players and the hoof 'n hope gameplan but I come to you this morning to urge calm and restraint.

I'm not going to charge to use the "week of mourning" defence, but neither am I going to flip right over to the other side of the spectrum and spit in disgust that we couldn't "get the job done for Jim". The only reason that theory got any sort of airtime was because we were involved in a supposedly winnable game. We were balls but we've been balls so often in recent times that maybe I'm starting to become desensitised to failure? Is this what it's like to be a Richmond fan born in the 80's?

We all expected better but in the grand scheme of things we'll be doing exactly the same thing in September now that we would have if we'd won so if lessons are learnt (which is a big if) and it either results in senior players firing up or hastens their demise then in the end it might leave us better off. Either that or we're going to have to rebuild on top of the rebuild, which is something to look forward to with the same delight as a bout of the Ebola virus.

I did go in with an uncomfortable feeling about opening the season with a match we were supposed to win. The ridiculously overinflated expectations from the Collingwood game were dented by Hawthorn then completely harpooned by Port, leaving our status as red-hot favourites for this game in serious question. Still, the perception that Brisbane were going to be easybeats set us up for a massive fall.

If we'd put in the exact same performance against Carlton we'd all be trying to pluck out positives and plan for the future, but do it against a supposedly rubbish side (as opposed to us, one of the great teams of the last five seasons) and plastic bits of the panic button are flying off at all angles as thousands of people rush to slam it down firmly.

A sick fantasy crossed my mind during the week that the long bomb, zero crumb extravaganza that we'd seen in the pre-season was some sort of genius rope-a-dope move by Team Neeld designed to lure our early premiership season opponents into a false sense of security before slicing and dicing them with precise kicking to leads within 50. It wasn't. Sadly conspiracy theories like that are the the exclusive domain of internet nutbags, not highly paid professional coaches.

Sadly the plan that was hatched by said professional coaches requires the players to execute it, and on the showing of today and most of the other pre-season matches we don't yet have the players who can. Though I must say it was heartening to see that one of the central tenents of the Baileyball philosophy was still going in the midst of all the imprecise kicking along the boundary and roosting the ball to a metre above a solitary, outnumbered key forward - Jamar was still the target of 9/10 kick-ins. Not surprisingly the Lions seemed to know this was coming. God knows how they picked that.

Do you think the long kicking to the square is part of some sort of masterplan or it's just the players not being able to execute it properly? Either way it was fairly obvious that by the second quarter Brisbane knew exactly what we were going to do every single time we went forward and they set up accordingly. So accordingly to the point where despite getting mauled in the centre clearances as usual we only had ten or so inside 50's less than the Lions. Sounds like a perfect day to launch my new Quality Inside 50's stat because plenty of ours wouldn't qualify.

Then there was the insistence on avoiding the middle of the ground at all costs despite the fact that they were beating the living shit out of us from clearances both out of the centre and from throw-ins. Ok Melbourne, the idea is to play like the Pies. I get it and it's a good idea in theory, but I've seen Collingwood, I've come to know Collingwood and you sir are no Collingwood.

Nevertheless we weren't bad early. If anybody had been able to hit a target inside 50 we might have kicked more than a point in the first fifteen minutes. It took the Magner double debut goal to get us on the board, and in front, but by that point we'd already botched a truckload of chances by aimlessly belting the ball towards the square.

As much as I loved the 2x Magner (and for you Stat My Bitch Up fans let the record show him as the first two goal, two career kicks Demon since Peter Tossol in Round 6, 1982) surely the last thing we want to see is free goals being handed out to all and sundry based on macho bullshit push and shove? The whole thing has been rotten since Matthew Lloyd flounced to the ground and cost us victory against Essendon in 2003 but why reward forwards who start the push 'n shove knowing that the defender has it all to lose if their hand/arm even remotely slides above the shoulder.

In true MFC fashion Magner paid the karmic price for having the merest bit of luck by suffering not one, not two but three injuries for the remainder of the match. He limped off once, he clutched his recently injured hand for a while and then he limped off again. The last one looked serious, that'll serve him right for being amongst our best.

Even after the Experience marked in the square and we ended the first quarter 11 points in front it was clear that 2012 was going to be another year of toil and struggle. Suffice to say that after watching Collingwood/Hawthorn the night before this was like turning back the FA Cup final to watch Accrington Stanley away to Macclesfield Town.

Things started to go wrong in the second quarter, but surprisingly amongst all of Brisbane's botched attempts to put us away we managed to kick a goal in the first ten minutes of the quarter which is the exception rather than the rule these days. Sadly in another traditional move we spent the whole quarter doing our toiling and struggling to create goal chances while the Lions ended up getting one when some guy nobody's ever heard of managed to get the ball off the ground despite being in the middle of a tackle. Is nothing sacred?

By half time the Lions had completely sussed us and taken the lead. They knew exactly what we were going to do every single time that the ball landed in one of our player's hands (i.e not at a stoppage) and even novelty players like Niall McKeever and Pearce Hanley were running riot, having the time of their life running us around in circles.

There was a tragic irony to the fact that during all of this two of the players who cut us to ribbons were Irishmen. Notwithstanding the events of this week aren't you slightly aggrieved that we can't find anybody capable of hitting a target and the Lions have got a pair of imports landing it on top of each other with the greatest of ease?

Still, being four points down at half time isn't fatal under any circumstances. Certainly not if the mistakes of the first two quarters are identified and rectified. So instead what we got was a continuation of the absolute refusal to set foot in the middle of the ground and more long passes to outnumbered forwards. Howe and Martin did their best considering the generally shithouse, haphazard delivery.

Clark wasn't great, fair enough, and his goals did come in classic Robertson/Jurrah junktime when the match was absolutely buggered but look at the sort of service he was getting and the role he's being expected to play. Want him to beat two or three men every time? Good luck with that. How about creating second, third or fourth options so that they're not able to say with absolute certainty where the ball's going to go whenever one of ours put the ball to boot forward of centre.

I'll still defend Green's overall contribution to the last few years to my death but if he turns out performances like that every week I'll be lonely at the fan club meeting. Can we use him or Petterd (when fit) to take the heat off Clark a bit? Brad can still kick 30/40 goals a season but if he's on the half-forward flank and the ball is being belted to the goal-square every time he's not going to contribute to the scoring is he?

We owe it to the Clark to give him some opportunity to do what we recruited him to do, and that's not to be a miracle worker who can beat three men in a contest single handedly. By being paid ridiculously over the odds for what he's done so far in his career (though we had the money and had to spend it anyway and yadda yadda, we've covered this) he's simultaneously put a big target on his back adn there'll be more than a few people keen to see this end badly, so can we at least play to his strong points? The best work he did in the pre-season was when he got one-on-one and used strength to win the contest so surely we're going to try more of that - and if that means sometimes going short to Howe, Petterd, Green, Watts, whoever and they kick the goals instead then who gives a toss - as long as somebody is kicking the goals.

If nerves had started to shred over the fact that we weren't thrashing the pants off the visitors as 'everyone' expected us to then they were completely destroyed by the third quarter when it all went horribly wrong™ for the first time in 2012. Rockliff went forward and took the piss for the next 20 minutes, kicking goals, missing sitters and generally putting us to the sword. Eventually they were so exasperated they had to put Joel Mac onto him, which was fine for all the times when the ball wasn't in or bouncing out of Joel's hands.

It was effectively all over when they got that goal from the bounce in the square. There can't be much worse for defenders than having to avoid conceding in that scenario. In the 'good old days' the ruckman would just whack it through for a point and we'd get back to the more important business of stuffing up our kick-in but now - as Mark Jamar found out one day at Docklands to his tremendous chagrin - that's a free kick and a certain goal for the opposition. May as well have tried his luck at the umpire losing the plot and failing to give the free because the ball hit the ground and the Lions snapped a goal out of their arse anyway.

Might not have been completely fatal but the next three were. We got one to end the quarter and keep it within record comeback margin but it was a band-aid across a violent chainsaw wound. Even that meaningless, token goal was the product of comedy with Green and Davey fumbling around and almost stuffing it up before the ex-skipper (© - the media) finally managed to get it through to what could only be described as muted applause. Personally I was just happy that Davey was still in the stadium, I thought he'd packed up and gone home after laying a cracker of a tackle in the first quarter.

With the contest absolutely stone dead they belatedly brought on Bate and he had ten touches in the last quarter. Not many of them actually did anything but at least he had a bash out of the middle. Whether Magner's out next week or not he's got to start. After a day when he passed Jamie Bennell to becoming our all time leading substitute (with four) the time has come to give the poor bastard four quarters to show what he can do. The answer might be 'nothing' but at least let him try, especially considering that he could very easily be playing every week for the Bulldogs this year if we'd taken whatever trinkets they were offering for him in trade week. If he proves to be not good enough over four quarters after a couple of goes at it then ok but don't make him sub again or somebody's going to have to talk him out of fashioning a noose from the green vest in classic Emo Maric style.

Apart from the interest of what Bate was going to do and if Clark could open his account there was absolutely nothing to recommend the last quarter to anybody. I enjoyed the fact that thousands of Demon fans waited until the goal at the eight minute mark which put us 40 odd points behind to choose to walk out as if we were still right in it until that point.

Another day, another debacle and the scary thing is that there's not exactly a plethora of players kicking the door down to get a game or returning from injury. The Neeld Plan had better come together soon or he's going to be prematurely buried by munters from coast to coast. Here's to him swinging the axe ruthlessly next week knowing that we're probably going to get humped by the Eagles anyway.

Our inability to develop anybody even remotely like a superstar this decade doesn't help the tension. Look at the Collingwood and Hawthorn sides on Friday night, the reason they could afford to field players like Broc McCauley and Jarrad Boumann in Round 1 with a straight face (though I'll concede McCauley was more out of necessity than anything) was because they've developed a shitload of quality, found some solid gold rookies/mature aged recruits and topped it off with good players from other clubs. If we started with McCauley people would have set the place on fire before the first bounce.

One day when you've got nothing else to do sit down and rank your top 10 players who debuted in 2000 or later. You'll find that the best you can do is have solid men like Green, Davey and Rivers jostling for positions in the top five with flakes like Sylvia. Soon enough it could be Frawley but what side ever won anything with their best player being a key defender? Not unless their second/third/fourth best players are guns in other positions.

And has any club (other than the filth franchises) been less successful at developing out and out great players than us in that time? It's no wonder we got away with it (intermittently at least) until the second half of the last decade, we were trading on the glories of the pre-2000 club like Neitz, White, Yze etc.. Now it's just honest toilers and if any of these thousands of top draft picks we've got ever make it we'll probably be too busy suffering from the effects of shock to notice.

I'll have Green at one but he's a good player not a star. What contitutes a star? Christ knows, but by my count we're amongst a small group of teams who haven't produced a solitary player in the 21st century who at some time has been worth a seat at either the top table or at least the next one down. We all mock Mike Sheahan's Top 50 as arbitrary guesswork but one thing you do know is that we haven't got anyone even remotely likely to crack the top 20 in the near future.

I struggle to find a Port player who fits the star bill, but at least they got a flag while clutching to the 20th century crop. Not many at Adelaide either but they were smart enough to pinch Scott Thompson from some gormless bunch of village idots.

Just one would be nice. A Jonathan Brown or a Pav who you know is always going to be strong even when all around them is crumbling. Could still happen but I won't hold my breath lest it ends in turning purple and being carried out of the new Demonblog Towers in leafy Hawthorn on a stretcher. For those of you following my ever changing previous Demonblog HQs have been in St Kilda (2005), Docklands (2005-06), Southbank (2006), Camberwell (2007), Richmond (2008-2009), Cheltenham (2010) and Southbank again last year. Not moving again next year, have had enough. Sadly having had enough with my football club is not enough to keep me away.

MFC Facebook comment of the week

At the time of writing there are 481 comments on the final score post alone, so many of them going off chop that it almost seems rude to select just one. In fact there are certain sections where I'd might as well do PRINT SCREEN and just paste the lot. Alas I'm too lazy to blank out the name of more than one person so after careful consideration we're proud to announce this week's winner.

Initially I was going to go for the hero who suggested the players should be "spat on" (note to stereotypers, not all of our fans are brandy drinking socialites) but then this furious missive turned up. If you're trying to win this segment I'll give you the tip that mashing your keyboard with the Caps Lock on is likely to put you at the front of the queue every time.

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The problem is becoming sorting out the classic comments by our supporters from those of scumbag opposition fans who get their jollies trolling other clubs. Then there's the guy who called Ricky Petterd "Patterdale" in what was surely an auto-correct disaster rather than an honest mistake. I'll start to name and shame some of the serial offenders in coming weeks, hopefully stuffing up their name ranking on Google and costing them jobs/personal happiness.

2012 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
Difficult is not a strong enough term to describe how hard it was to come up with these. Magner was good but he hardly deserved top billing. Shame nobody else did either and by default he joins Kyle Cheney and Michael Evans as players who have received maximum Jakovich votes on debut. Notably all three were in losses, and gee haven't Cheney and Evans done well for themselves since?

In Neeld's press conference he said only four players put in AFL standard performances today. I'd say the top three here are a gimme, perhaps not in the same order, but I'm struggling to work out who else he could include. Watts or Frawley might have snuck in one vote but given that both Howe and Jones are just filler anyway it still doesn't qualify either of them for an apology.

5 - James Magner
4 - Jack Trengove
3 - Stefan Martin
2 - Jeremy Howe
1 - Nathan Jones

Crowd Watch
Relatively large considering the combatants but you always get a few people who turn up for Round 1 dying for the chance to angrily screaming "Never again!" and not show up for the rest of the year. They'll be thrilled.

The minute's applause for Jim was well observed. Sadly it ended at a minute. We tried to keep it going but nobody went with us. I was hoping for a spontaneous outburst to keep it going for five minutes minimum, but sadly they thwarted us by just playing the national anthem even while we were still going. Obviously the minute's clapping did nothing for Joel Macdonald's hands as he spent the rest of the game dropping the ball every time it went near him.

Oh, and Brisbane fans make sure to come back in Round 13 to see how to properly abuse the player who dicked you to make a shedload of cash elsewhere. A few dinky little bronx cheers and boos will have nothing on the reception planned for the Two Million Dollar Turd. "Planned" is an overstatement because it's really just about 250 different one-off anarchist groupings who'll be doing their own thing as part of a larger cavalcade of hate. As much fun as it promises to be I'd still rather he did his knee first and never made it.

Who am I kidding, this is Melbourne. We'll talk tough and then when he does show up he'll cop some tepid booing. The least that I can hope for is a few offensive banners which are forcibly removed by MCG security for excessive use of the word cunt.

The People's Ground corner
Did anyone else notice that the G has ponced up all its warning messages? Now instead of a simple STAY OFF THE GROUND OR WE'LL TAKE YOU FOR 7K it's "Enjoy the game but don't become part of the action" then the threat of penalty as almost an afterthought. Also Liquor Licensing no longer dictates that no alcohol can be taken out of the MCG and fans of the Police Operational Commander are right out of luck. First the standard of law enforcement messages drops, the next thing Carlton fans are hitting women - not saying there's a connection but you do the math.

Interesting to note the Auskick games being marshalled by (presumably unarmed coppers). Did that happen everywhere this week or was there some sort of family court dispute on that required guards to be present in case a disgruntled parent leapt the fence and tried to snatch their kid?

Musically I'm not entirely sure what that pox "we fell in love in a hopeless place" song has anything to do with football but it's infinitely better than having to listen to Coldplay every ten seconds. Mind you the AC/DC ad will become more painful than the Dropkick Murphys version by Queen's Birthday. One person who did get right into the tunes when they played Edge Of Glory at three-quarter time (surely that's not a deliberate "ooh the last quarter is coming" thing? That would be a worse gimmick than the velvet jacketed trumpet poon playing wonky versions of the Star Wars theme) was the guy sitting in front of us who started dancing around in his seat as if it were 3.45am at A Bar Called Barry and he'd just sunk seventeen Vodka Cruisers. Born to dance. Born to be mocked mercilessly.

Media Watch
I've basically given up on the Herald Sun since they started charging for articles, but in a vain attempt to gain some perspective on what happened Saturday I read this and don't think I'll bother again. First he throws Bate into the mix as a disappointing senior player for only having ten possessions (in one quarter) then he somehow manages to come up with Jamar as the third best player on the ground. Not just the third best Demon either. No wonder they let you read that story for free, he's just making it up.

The Age, on the other hand, remains free. And while the actual paper itself is absolutely traumatic to read (which is why nobody does) their website continues to dish out far better footy coverage without the compulsion to waffle on about Supercoach in every article. See this for example. So far above the level of the competition that it's not funny. Now try making the print edition less complicated to read than performing open heart surgery and you'll be getting somewhere.

Public transport shenanigans of the week
No City Loop to be trapped in this week, but as I got off the train at Tooronga station and trudged towards my car - half expecting it to have been smashed to pieces by marauding gangs of teenage hoodlums - I noticed a gent who its fair to say may he been under the influence of either epic quantities of booze or powerful, not entirely legal opiates.

Now, he was having a bit of trouble walking but that's fine it's not like he was in danger of walking onto the tracks or falling off a bridge so I went straight past him walking around in tight circles and got into my car. Then I look out and he's gone for six, splayed out across the footpath with half the people who got off the train having to step over him to get past. Surely somebody's going to at least ask how he is I thought, but no everyone just clambered over him and kept going. Welcome to the caring society.

Much to the chagrin of the gawkers standing around watching him lie on the ground I went over and asked if he was alright and he asked if he was in Glen Waverley. Sadly I had to inform him that he'd actually gotten off the Glen Waverley train and would have to return to the platform and wait for another one. And off he went, walking around in a few more circles for good measure and failing to properly touch on his myki as he re-entered the platform and I got out of there before having to testify at an inquest. God knows where he ended up next, probably under the next train the way he was going.

So there you go, our footy team might be rubbish for years to come but there's always somebody worse off. Also I can confirm that it was definitely not Ben Cousins.

Next Week
186 might have altered my perspective on what constitutes a thrashing but I'm still expecting an apocalyptic belting by the Eagles. I'll be conservative in my changes but hopefully Neeld isn't and the Thursday afternoon selection meeting resembles the St Valentine's Day Massacre.

In: Tapscott and Petterd
Out: Macdonald, Blease (+ Magner?)

Davey gets one more chance (but just one) and Tynan earnt at least one more game with an ok performance. Not particuarly crazy about Moloney's performance either but surely he, like Green, has got enough credits in the bank to save him for a couple of weeks at least. Flash, on the other hand, has been spending them like a drunken sailor and might have to take matters into his own hand and punch somebody again to get thrown out of the team.

McDonald, Morton, Sellar and Bennell were all listed in the best for Casey but it looks like McDonald played forward (3 goals) and I can't see any of our tall forwards getting the chop yet (at least until somebody has tried to deliver it to them properly) so I doubt he'll get a run just yet. Maybe he could play CHF? God knows we appeared to be without one today.

Sellar could replace Macdonald if Tapscott's not right yet and we all know Morton's going to have to come back at some point so why not straight into the frying pan of a Subiaco massacre? Either way they might as well pick you and I for all the good it's going to do. In fact if Magner is out then give me Morton and his enormous bouffant hairdo. Bate to start and either Morton or Tynan as the dreaded shit rule sub.

Final thoughts
In no way was today worth it, but we're on a long road. Hold your nerve at least until halfway through the year.

3 comments:

  1. morton, tapscot, pettered, gysberts if fit should go straight in.
    I'll be at subi by a quirk of fate, was last there in 2002 when we won by a goal. A tenth anniversary repeat? Or another Kardinia Park circ 2011? Im tipping the latter.
    TC
    (very scared)

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  2. I wish I shared your level head when it comes to Davey. Can't see how Neeld could possibly justify picking him. Credits are spent I'd suggest. Did his best Newton impression in the last qtr, trying to get junktime touches to sure up his spot. Probably the worst I've seen him play. Sad

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  3. As if the game wasn't bad enough, I took your shameless advertisements to heart and grabbed a 'Kaiser'. Saurkraut & Gherkin - the hell?

    ReplyDelete