Saturday, 5 May 2012

I'm a country member...

... actually I'm not, and to be entirely honest spent the whole day on the couch (no sign of Gerard Healy thankfully) after chickening out of going to Kardinia Park. I was a slowly burning chicken, it was on the way to Geelong last year that I thought to myself that I wouldn't be bothered for at least one year - and that's before the result made returning to the scene of the crime an even less attractive proposition.

I'm still not sure how I managed to stay the full four quarters that day, but the work colleague who randomly ran into me at the train station that day likes to occassionally come around and point out that I was as white as a sheet. My only memory of the post-match is the guy who had a giant inflatable finger on the street opposite the station waving it around and aptly yelling "down! down!"

So why then did I wake up on Saturday morning and briefly decide that I was going to make a surprise appearance at this year's game? It was probably due to being well aware that there was actually fat chance of getting a ticket to their tip of a ground at such short notice due to the reconstruction works. That's what I'm telling myself anyway in an attempt to remove some of the shame and self-loathing at willingly missing a full four quarters of a Victorian game for the first time in years.

It's the first time since 2002 that I've willingly missed a game in this state when I had nothing else to do - before the 2007 season I moved to a non-shiftwork job just to be able to go to every single match, and hasn't that proved to be a sensible move? How much more horror can one fan endure?

It's a good thing that tickets are at a premium due to one end of the ground not existing, because no doubt if I'd thought that I could walk straight in I'd have been in my car at 10am sharp, off to relive all the key moments of 186 live and in person with 20,000 premiership-fed yokels, high on the most ridiculous home winning record in history.

Stuff that, I'm not intending on making a habit of staying away from games no matter how bad it gets but even the 143 point turnaround and extremely brief moments where I thought we might actually get close wasn't worth being cold, wet and crammed shoulder to shoulder with a tractor mechanic from Colac. Maybe next year. Maybe eventually we'll get to the point where we're 'too big' to play there? That will help. Any danger we might see Collingwood sent down the highway at some point? No, because everyone will lose a fortune and bugger the fans of clubs who don't have a billion fans.

What I will say for watching on TV was that as long as you clear everybody else out and spend the day inside wearing tracksuit pants and a 2005 era fleecy MFC zip-up jumper you can get a lot done. Rather than standing around on a terrace eating rancid hot dogs at $5 a crack I did my washing at quarter time, vacuumed Demonblog Towers thoroughly during the half-time break and even paused halfway through the third quarter to remove a cake from the oven. None of this domestic goddess work would have been possible if I'd been shivering on a godforsaken slab of concrete 100km away. The two minutes lost during the pause for a cake/oven interface was made up in fast forwarding through endless replays after Geelong goals.

We did relatively well today, and there were even some brief moments of magic from stoppages god help us all, but let's not kid ourselves that Geelong were in anything more than second gear. First we copped the GWS treatment of having Selwood going of 'injured' rested, then they spent the first ten minutes dominating the play around the ground only to ruin it with half-arsed shots at goal.

Eventually they started kicking goals and the rest of the match was just dinky little tricks, fiddly kicks and substituting one of their best players during the third quarter just because while keeping us at a comfortable arms length like an adult cruelly dangling somebody just higher than how high a kid can leap.

Still, you can only play against the team that turns up and just because this year they weren't intent on humping us like a sheepdog it shouldn't detract from an 'improved' performance compared to some of the shite dished out so far this year. There are still some gigantic 0-11 sized question marks over this team but I think broadly we're going in the right direction. Did I say that last week? Or has it been once a week for years. Oh yes, we've been down this road before, so brace for disappointment, shambles and disgrace.

One man I'll not hear a word against during this barren run is one Mitch Clark. What an animal. It's cruel irony that should the next five weeks go as expected, and should he play in each match, that he'll be 0-10 and the owner of an even worse loss/loss record than Jake Spencer (0-8). That'll leave him just six short of the all-time 0-16 record for futility held by some poor bastard called Mal Owens. Surely if can't happen, if we hit Round 18 (including the bye and the game he missed) and he hasn't played in a victory the club will get shut down before he can.

The irony is especially cruel because he's been immense, answering almost every question that was hanging over him when he came to the club. Imagine what our forward line would look like if we hadn't landed him before Jurrah and Green suffered their various misfortunes? Good god we'd be kicking three pity goals a week. Not that we did too badly without him last week but try relying on the Rohan Bail Crumb Club every match and see how far you get.

He cost a fortune and I'm willing to say that considering what he's surrounded by, and where the money would have gone otherwise (a Nigerian bank account probably) he's worth every cent of it so far. Considering that the Stefan Martin Experience has disappeared off the face of the earth and they've finally put the Webjet logo in a white box so it doesn't look shit on the jumper I can see myself going out and getting a #11 in the very near future. Now watch him do nothing for the rest of the year, I've finished a lot of careers with support in my time so let's not hope he's another.

Still, one man does not a decent side make and there's not a lot he could do as we were smashed like a guitar in the first few minutes, saved only by their terrible kicking for goal. What he could do was set up the first goal with the best tap back into play since Petterd (remember him?) to Bate against Richmond in 2010. Then he kicked one of his own and we all collectively swooned as we were left in the ridiculous scenario of being within a goal.

It was very much, as they say, against the run of play. At one point early in the quarter when the ball hadn't even been across half-way a stat flashed up that the "time in forward half" was 98/2 Geelong. Somebody please get the tape out and tell me where the 2% came from - was there a secondary bounce 20cm to the left of your screen? Otherwise it was just typical Channel 7 style making it all up horseshit.

All well and good to stick with them for the first few minutes, but realistically they had spent that whole time battering us and not taking advantage so nobody could have been surprised if they'd run away with it from there. But we stayed respectable, separated only by the obscene lack of run off half back and an amazing ability to concede goals immediately out of the centre after kicking one. When Clark was down there we actually looked, whisper it quietly, dangerous at times. Mainly just because of him though, nobody else was doing much. Certainly not James Sellar who is unfortunately about as good a forward option at the moment as Jamie Shanahan.

Five points down at quarter time was practically living in a glory era compared to what we'd been through down there recently. It was more like that Round 3, 2008 match where everybody expected us to get pulverised and we kicked the first three than 186 when everyone expected us to just get beaten comfortably and we were pulverised. At least you never know (other than the end result) what you're going to get at Kardinia Park.

It couldn't last, and it didn't last - five minutes into the second quarter the prospect of a hefty beating still loomed large. Remember the West Coast game? We were competitive (CLICHE) in the first quarter there as well and still would up coming home with our biggest ever interstate loss. Luckily after the first goal they did the same thing as the first quarter and missed everything they went for, eventually allowing Clark - that magnificent beast - to crumb another one for his third. Have we had a crumber this good since classic era Davey? Problem is he's usually crumbing from his own contests because nobody else can get the bloody ball to hit the deck before it's swept away to the other end of the ground in tidal wave fashion - and when you're relying on guys that size to bring the forward pressure then it's no wonder the ball doesn't stay down there for more than five seconds if he doesn't get it.

Just when you thought we were some semblance of a chance of at least making it interesting we suffered the traditional anti-MFC rorts at the hands of the umpires. First Bartel played up non-existant contact to rob a free kick and goal then Podsiadly got one right on half-time that was so bizarre and confusing that even he didn't appeal for it. The only good thing about it was that it was against Clark who was completely innocent AND demonstrating his ability to play total football from one end to another like a god damned MONSTER.

Shit decisions one and all but at least they didn't pay the one where Morton toe-poked it into the Geelong forward line for a 'mark' which clearly didn't hit the ground as old mate tried to mark it. Though they more than made up for it with the other two pox frees though.

Speaking of Morton I'm suffering a tolerate/not quite hate relationship (about five levels down from love/hate) with him at the moment, it looks like when he's in the clear and can kick it that it usually goes to the right place but when there's any sort of pressure on or he has to handball in traffic it ends in tragedy. We'd might as well keep playing him against the good sides and hope that he can get up some confidence but I can see a knock-down, third round draft pick swap at the end of the year after which he will undoubtedly win a premiership elsewhere. Can we send him to St Kilda or Footscray to ensure 100% that this can't happen?

Getting to half-time relatively unscathed was ridiculous enough, but when Howe kicked the second goal of the third quarter and we were within two straight kicks (CLICHE) it crossed into another dimension entirely. Of course there was never any question that we were going to win it, never before has a side been 11 points behind yet so far away from victory - and just to underline it after that second goal the ball went straight out of the centre in near record time and they kicked a goal. Momentum duly shifted, possession count dried up to almost nil and they boot five to end the quarter. Game over, but barring epic disaster in the last quarter we were at least set to keep it under ten goals.

And god help us all we actually did, despite putting in another rubbish scoring final quarter to score just 1.5. Admittedly there were a couple of unlucky posters in that though, but by now the Geelong players were sleepwalking their way to the siren and the most casual rendition of the theme song in history so it's not like the heat was well and truly on but at least we stopped them from kicking away.

43 points is the closest we've got at Kardinia Park since that R3, 2008 match so interpret that however you like. Surely last year's model would have beaten us more handily, but at least it wasn't towards the end of the season - other than our internal debacles the proverbial 'message' to the rest of the competition is what put us on the path for that epic beatdown.

All in all it was about as good as we could have hoped for. The gulf in class is still ridiculous, and despite the cavalcade of wacky results involving 'top' teams this year I still fail to see how we can win before the GWS game. Even Gold Coast looked good against Freo so any guarantee we had of pocketing four points against them is very much in doubt. It might be better for us if GWS beat Gold Coast next week, because if they run into us 0-11 as well they'll sense a chance and play out of their skins. And may I be the first to say if we're put to the sword by Tom freaking $cully I don't think I'll be able to mentally cope.

These are worrying times that we're living in, but I still have a sense of serenity about it all. I wouldn't call it a firm belief that things will get better, because as history has shown that's no guarantee, but more that no matter what happens this year the sun will still rise and we'll get another shot in 2013. Going 0-22 would be the ultimate humiliation but at least we're not relegated to the Diamond Valley League. You can't do that for too long or you'll end up as Fitzroy Mk. 2 but I reckon we've got a good five years in us before all the old supporters start to drop dead and aren't being replaced by kids - and if we haven't earned some measure of success or developed a superstar by then we probably deserve to pull the shutters down or relocate to Port Moresby.

Still, I reserve the right to act like the 2007 Port Adelaide game and punch the picture of Matthew Elliot in the Ponsford Stand stepwell if we don't beat GWS.

2012 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Mitch Clark
4 - Nathan Jones
3 - James Frawley
2 - Jeremy Howe
1 - Jordie McKenzie

Strugged to fill the last spot. Apologies to Grimes, Garland, McDonald, Jamar (for taps only) and Bartram only because they all could have snuck in for one.

Leaderboard
It seems appropriate at this point to point out that Brock McLean holds the record for the highest score in this competition (yes, that Brock McLean) with 47 in 2006 - and he had two extra matches to do it in. If he keeps going like this, and the pool of quality weekly performers remains paper thin, Jones could have that and the golden half century to follow.

Either that or he could drop off the face of the earth in true Melbourne fashion and not score another vote for the rest of the year. After 51 straight games there's nothing more likely to cause him to suffer a six week injury than leading this award, and I apologise in advance for the broken hand/finger/toe/heart that will inevitably follow in the next few weeks.

22 - Nathan Jones
11 - Jeremy Howe
10 - James Magner (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
9 - Mitch Clark
7 - Matthew Bate
6 - Jordie McKenzie
4 - Jack Trengove
3 - Stefan Martin, Jack Watts, Jared Rivers (CO-LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), James Frawley (CO-LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Mark Jamar (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
2 - Brent Moloney, Tom McDonald

MFC Facebook Comment of the Week

'Internet issues' in Geelong stopped them from doing quarter-by-quarter posts, and that's a big win for fans of this segment because it compacted all the nuttery into one thread. Sadly, though a forensic trawl of the page at 11.05pm reveals that there's nothing special - no David Main Man Wicks, no sign of that guy who wrote the massive complaint letter on a sponsorship announcement, nobody floating a properly insane theory.

Winner by default is the guy who 'humorously' claimed we were 23 years into "Barassi's five year plan" but didn't do the maths and realise that would make it 2004. Good year, could have won the flag in an open field if we hadn't committed hari kari in the last month. Not good enough for me to go to the trouble of taking a screenshot and blanking out his name but the video above is only really relevant this week so I'm pressing on anyway just to use it.

Other than that it's just people text-fellating Mitch Clark (rightly so), calling for Sellar to be put in a boat and cast towards New Zealand (you have a point) and more spelling errors on player names than you can possible imagine. Who are Maloney, Pettard, Trengrove, Clarke and Jarrah? Good thing Brock McClean isn't around anymore. Is it that much to ask for that people might get the players right even if they spelling everything else heinously. Obviously it is.

Commentary Corner
I'd like to pay some measure of apology to Mr. Dwayne Russell, because until today I had you all alone atop the Mt. Olympus of awful commentators but I was clearly wrong. What in the proverbial name of dutch buggery is going on with the Channel 7 b-team? To everyone who cried openly about Kelli Underwood besmirching the allegedly glorious name of footy commentary I give you this duo.

If it doesn't already t make your skin crawl that they call it "Saturday Arvo Footy" then you've got to put up with epic smug git Hamish McLachlan (just the type of guy to Google himself, so hi) running through the same briefing sheet of 'interesting facts' 50 times during the match. Did you know Mitch Brown kicked nine for the Geelong reserves in Bendigo last week? Well you do now. A fine stat, and congratulations to Mitch on his big haul, but once will do us just fine.

Also stay tuned for the halftime show where we talk to Tom Lonergan about his missing kidney and look at the Melbourne VFL players. How could you ignore a request like that when McLachlan flogged it with us six times a quarter? Very easily as it turned out, the moment I saw him casually wandering the Kardinia Park turf with Lonergan I started hoovering and came back just in time for the teams running out for the third quarter.

Then there's the fact that neither McLachlan or the other guy had no idea who half our players were and variously called all of Jamar, Howe and Sellar 'Mitch Clark' (even sometimes Mitch Clark himself). Even Geelong's Mitch Brown got it at one point, but surprisingly he didn't credit Clark with the high rotation nine goals in Bendigo tidbit. They did however call his fourth goal as if it was he who contested for the ball on the goal line AND charged in from 20m to crumb it - totally ignoring the fact that the replay clearly showed Howe in the contest. I know Mitch is the new housewives' favourite but don't just call his name when the ball goes towards our goal just because you think he might be somewhere in the vicinity.

While there's plenty to be said for watching at home the commentary horrors are enough to discourage it. At least when you're at the game live the call is complimentary (just like Matthew Bate) to what you're watching unfold right in front of you, having to watch on TV with these gibbons waffling on is like being trapped in a German U-Boat under the Atlantic Ocean.

The third wheel was Mick Malthouse. He just spent four quarter slagging us off for being shite, but that's exactly what we do as well so good on him. Fourth wheel was Tom Harley who I quite like but is wasted being the boundary rider (now known as 'field commentator' for god's sake) and being expected to chip in with some banter here and there.

I suppose you could work some scam to sync up the radio but it's more fun complaining about it. Not that the radio is up to much either, last week they were claiming a ball had been "smashed into the stands" when it was clearly, and obviously to all, knocked limply into the fence. And there's certain radio callers who can't tell indigenous players apart, back when we had more than one playing.

I'm sure if he could take a minute from editing his own Wikipedia page and retweeting any old crap people ask him to Hamish (or "Hammer" if you're a fan of blokey commentary box circle jerk action) would write in and say "if you think it's so easy I'd like to see you do it". And well he might because if it didn't involve MFC players there'd be no idea and no interest, but the point is not that some random nutbag off the internet would be shite at it - it's that there are so few highly paid professional broadcasters who can go four quarters without making at least ten terrific clangers. Mainly because "highly paid professional broadcaster" is the arsiest job you can ever find yourself falling into. Maybe they should have a TAFE course in sporting commentary?

Still, I'll give it a go if you give me Melbourne as one of the teams and a month to commit the other side to memory so I don't accidentally identify Trent Dennis-Lane as Aung San Suu Kyi.

Next Week
Hawthorn will batter us, there's really no doubt about that. And the good news is the whole country gets to watch it live on Friday night. They're hardly flying at the moment, but neither are Geelong so if we can put in a respectable performance and continue to improve then I'll be happy.

I've given up trying to predict what they're going to do at the selection table. You'd think Watts would be a sure in and Sellar a sure out, but it's hardly a straight swap and we all know from the Petterd Debacle that once you're out you may never be seen again. Given that Casey play one more game next week before two weeks off (bye + state game = farce competition) I wouldn't be surprised if the message to Watts included another week in the twos. Hopefully for his sake Neeld doesn't see the footage of him yucking it up in the stands having the time of his life while we were getting thrashed.

Dunn wasn't terrible when he came on, but he wasn't much good either. Kicks a cracking set shot but he's got to get it first, and unless he's suddenly going to become a Clark-esque contested mark specialist I think we're just plodding along by picking him. Not writing him off forever but it's time for some crop rotation.

I've seen people trying to drop Sylvia, which seems odd to me. He wasn't particularly good but it was his first four quarters in two months so give him a few more weeks to get himself back into the groove before giving him the Watts treatment. Maybe he should have played four quarters in the Reserves last week instead of a half with the seniors, but now that he's in we've got to stick with him for a while at least, he's too important at his (admittedly fleeting) best to mess around with.

Tom Couch was best on ground for Casey, and he's got to be rewarded for form eventually. They might give Magner a week off after being physically beaten up all season. Fitzpatrick kicked four (not sure if serious), as did Watts, and I've got no idea what that says about the quality of the Geelong VFL side but I'd rather see him down there next week than Sellar.

So, fat chance there'll be five changes but if there are:

IN: Fitzpatrick, Watts, Petterd, Couch, Bennell
OUT: Sellar, Dunn, Tapscott, Bail, Magner

I'd rather keep Bail, but somebody's going to have to go out for my weekly Free Ricky Petterd segment so bad luck Rohan. The SME also unlikely to come straight back, especially if they're keen to give Fitzpatrick another run. One more shot for Bennell due to being in the Casey bests two weeks a row and then I'm out permanently and if he's no good this time I'll never call for his inclusion ever again.

We won't be seeing Jordan Gysberts for a while, victim of a broken jaw in the VFL match. Between persistent back injuries in his first year, a broken wrist late last year, crocked ankle pre-season and now this I'm officially adding him to the list of players with substantial black clouds hanging over their heads.

Then there was Jack Viney who by all accounts copped a cracker of a cheap-shot from David Wojcinski and went down with a broken jaw of his own. Would be good if we could rack up a few triple premiership players who can spent the twilight of their years sniping kids in 10.40am matches.

Final Thoughts
When it comes to the great iconic numbers of MFC history I'm confident 43 will still be best known for Guy Rigoni's contribution. Unlike 186 which will deservedly never be forgotten.

4 comments:

  1. Love this. Entertaining & well-informed. However, in the spirit of MFC supporters, one poor performance and I will be calling fr you to be dropped to Demonland.

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  2. What type of cake did you bake? Hope it wasn't humble pie.

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  3. It's easy to avoid humble pie by never being positive.

    I tried it last year before we played the Bulldogs and we've been beaten to death by everyone since. Never again.

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  4. To nutbags 'Come on Aaron Davieson' scream-puff on the terrace in front of geelong's latest in the line of flag...oh you wouldn't be reading this would you? D - A - V - E - Y.
    Ask somebody to spell it!
    Also, to cut you short with the rule book....'deliberate' can not be so if the ball remains in play.
    Don't ever wear the red and blue again! YOU SHOULD BE BANNED.
    TC

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