Friday, 15 June 2012

Demonblog's 2012 mid-season State of the Union


First things first another term for Obama please just so I can keep using this graphic three times a year. Or twice a year in 2011 as it turns out considering that the archives show that I didn't bother to do one last season. How did you go on without? Very comfortably I'm sure.

But in the grand tradition of something that's been done twice, forgotten about for a year and then done again let's get to it. In the spirit of the AFL I was going to sell the sponsorship rights and call it the Kaiser's Sausages Classic Hot Krainer Mid-Season Report but a) the Kaiser still hasn't taken my hints and signed up as a sponsor and b) I'm not a member of the $cully family and can restrain myself from taking cash payments just for the sake of it.

So on that note we find ourselves dead in the middle of 'the season from hell' (© the entire world). To open with what's gone wrong would take far too long, so in the spirit of the 2010 mid-season report let's start with what's going right.

Highlight
Two years ago in this very spot I suggested beating up on Richmond was "like driving through the National Under 12's cycling championships in a Sherman Tank", so coming back two years later to find that they're no longer terrible and that we still are is rather unpleasant.

Obviously Essendon is the highlight so far. They necked themselves in remarkable fashion but the realisation that we were going to win at last and the resulting wild scenes on the bench (including the near surprise cameos from Garland and Howe which would have lost it for us) put it straight into the GOOD TIMES (Grimes) file.

One quarter later we'd reverted to type and been belted to buggery, and Essendon spent the first three quarters of their next game proving that it was no fluke that they'd forgotten how to kick but at the time it was magnificent. It will be even more entertaining to look back at if/when we permanently stop slurping so much plum.

Honourable mention - Winning a meaningless pre-season match against Collingwood, the first quarter against Brisbane, bits of the Geelong game, the third quarter comeback against St Kilda and first quarter against Hawthorn. None of them actually that good or actually honourable but the best of a bad bunch.

Individual highlights of note are all of Jeremy Howe's hangers EXCEPT the most famous one where I'm still bitter about the handball, Mitch Clark kicking five against Geelong and Tapscott belting Fasolo.

Lowlight
The entire Sydney game stands out like a gigantic brown shining light over everything else. West Coast was bad for the last three quarters and we've been beaten senseless at some point in most of our games this year but the first quarter at the SCG was near on criminal.

You could (if you're generous) understand it against Collingwood, especially considering two of the goals were criminal, they were dominating the midfield and we were giving off the back of a shock win but to dominate the first five minutes of a quarter and then go in 0.3 to 7.1 down is horrible and horrendous on a grand scale.

Dishonourable mention to the gigantic black hole our forward line disappeared into in the last quarter against St Kilda. The defence held on as long as was humanely possible but they've been doing that for five years, it's about time somebody else had a go isn't it?

And now in alphabetical order we find out whose hot, who's not and who's lukewarm at best.

Hits
Clint Bartram - Played his best game in years against St Kilda and was consistent until injured. Unlikely to ever achieve superstar status barring a miracle but has played well above expectation.

Mitch Clark - A colossus amongst lesser men. Needs to do it in multiple years to justify the payout but in a team that barely get the ball inside 50 has made critics look stupid.

James Frawley - Maybe not safe as houses, but safe as a nice block of flats in a good suburb at least. Has had his moments but so would you if you'd had to defend for this lot all these years.

Jack Grimes - Has remained alive thus far.

Jeremy Howe - Set shot goalkicking is still of the 'could go anywhere' variety but even last year it would have been hard to guess there was more to him than just playing forward.

Nathan Jones - Must have hated Dean Bailey's guts because he's been a new man ever since DB got the boot.

James Magner - One of the great red hot bargains of recent times. I doubt there's too many teams he'd be getting a regular game in, let alone every week, but suits us for where we're at right now in Struggletown. Also must be congratulated for playing every game when it seems that twice a week he's being hauled off in the arms of trainers.

melbournefc.com.au - Design and much of the content still hamstrung by the AFL/Telstra deal but the web shows like The Robbo Show, Gawn in 60 Seconds etc.. have been a big hit.

Tom McDonald - Came into the season as a depth defender and has now progressed to the point where we can afford to let Garland and Rivers go on adventures into the forward line. Prone to some random kicking but if we banned people for that there'd be a very lonely list of people at the top.

Don McLardy - Is not Jim Stynes but anybody who wants him to be needs to get their head read. Has played a decent straight bat in difficult times and, as yet, nobody has even been moved to big note themselves by floating the idea of a challenge.

Jordie McKenzie - Can't kick for buggery and hasn't been getting the 'high' number possessions he did last year but has in the past but has done some excellent tagging jobs and at least consistently over ten touches a week.

Jared Rivers - I'm sure some will dispute this based on the fact that he always seems to be copping a kicking but notwithstanding the fact that I'm still baffled as how he finished 2nd in the B&F last year he's had another good year considering the amount of time the ball is down there.

Misses
Jamie Bennell - Is he a forward, is he a back, is he a midfielder? With all respect to his position as a professional footballer it's not clear which of any he is and if he's ever going to play another proper good game. Not interested in waiting to find out. Hopefully his sister will come on and tee off about how he's a misunderstood genius a'la the club Facebook page.

Aaron Davey - Needs to weigh up the chance to pocket one more year of our money against totally ruining the good memories we've got. Has a lot of kids to feed but your mission is complete Flash, put the feet up and let's remember the glory days.

Jack Fitzpatrick - Feels harsh to put a guy who has just been diagnosed with diabetes onto the miss list, but his second senior appearance didn't make me any more confident about him being a regular fixture anytime soon than the first one - and he didn't even get a cheap handball over the top goal to remember this one by either.

Brad Green - Same as Davey but might be able to muddle through another year if he's really keen and doesn't object to being dropped at some point.

Kelvin Lawrence - Coming to the end of his two year rookie stint, highly unlikely to be invited back barring a miracle.

Brent Moloney - Has played a couple of good games and claims he wants to stay but is nothing like what he was last year. Plenty of time to restore his reputation but he wouldn't want to go on this path much longer before signing a contract or he'll be working for a greatly diminished wage.

Cale Morton - The poor bastard hit Vodafone levels of customer satisfaction halfway last year, and like them he's at the point where even if he does everything right 75% of the time nobody will show any interest and will wait patiently for the other 25% so they can pot him. I accept the fact that he tries hard but also that people are so set against him that we need to take whatever we can get in payment and let him start again - possibly under an assumed name.

Ricky Petterd - As a charter member of the Save Ricky Petterd Action Faction it pains me greatly to put him in this list but when he got a chance he played a shocker. Ok so there are others who have played 20 rubbish games in a row and still got picked but if you're not holding incriminating photos of somebody then it's off to Casey.

James Sellar - Cost nothing and has recovered somewhat with two decent games in the last fortnight but must never, ever, ever be allowed near the forward line again.

Jake Spencer - He's certainly become a large man in the last couple of years, and as we all know you're not legally allowed to write ruckmen off before they're in their mid 20's thanks to Jamar - but is hardly banging the door down for a senior recall. Could survive for depth purposes but fact remains even allowing for his ruined 2011 he's played two games in two and a half seasons and is behind all of Jamar, Clark, Martin, Sellar, Fitzpatrick and (but for injury) Gawn in the ruckman depth chart.

Colin Sylvia - It all started with his 5am shenanigans in the post-season and hasn't gotten much better since. The small matter of a broken back aside there was great excitement about his return and other than that goal against Essendon has delivered absolutely nothing of any note.

Jack Trengove - Will get 'there', but isn't moving towards 'it' very fast this season. I refuse to accept it's the captaincy that is causing the problem, he's got to have a niggling injury or something. Hopefully the break will reinvigorate him and he'll turn up and plunder GWS for 40 touches and/or bitchslap that guy that was drafted in front of him.

Neither Here Nor There
Rohan Bail - Expectations weren't exactly high so I've got what I expected. Almost had him in the misses category but low expectations + a decent last game save him from the ultimate indignity.

Matthew Bate - Poor bastard had a decent pre-season and was playing some ok football at the start of the year despite starting three games as sub but lost his spot and hasn't been seen since. Odds on to be out the door at the end of the year - of his own free will I'm sure - but will hopefully get a chance somewhere else.

Sam Blease - Brings a much needed aspect of taking the game on into our side and has kicked a couple of cracking goals but at the same time has a vile kicking efficiency. You'd think he'd get better but there's more than a few examples on this list of players either standing still or going backwards. Also as $cully's only mate in the world he's immediately under suspicion.

Lucas Cook - Seven goals in two games in the VFL (against admittedly shit opposition) have raised his chances of making a debut later this year (possibly when we're trying to 'get out of' the bottom three) almost certain. And about time too, the only person who has had more publicity and not played a game in two years (+ a half) is Majak Daw.

Tom Couch - Settle down Facebook fanatics, he'll get his chance soon.

Troy Davis - As above but with less Facebook freaks and more Twitter fans

Lynden Dunn - The replacement perma-sub once Bate and Bennell were given the boot. Possibly the only man to play better as a sub than he does when he gets picked, usually because we're ten goals down when he comes on and the other team has lost interest.

Colin Garland - Consistent at the back but hardly setting the world on fire. Forward cameo was a nice change of pace but he came back to earth fairly quickly the next week. I wonder, in the nicest possible way, if we could use him as currency to fill gaps elsewhere at the end of the year? Not trying to get rid of him by any means but we're in the rare situation of having quite a few decent defenders - with the potential for Davis and Sellar to add to their ranks - so who knows? Wackier things have happened. Hate mail to the usual address.

Mark Jamar - Gets a million taps but they never go to anyone. Whose fault is this? Maybe not his but he's hardly as dominant around the ground as he has been in the past and can't be relied on as an accurate goalkicker. It's no shame to be on the NHNT list, and he's a long way off the misses, but it seems something's missing. Mind you it's no wonder that his award winning tag team with Moloney is off the rails at the moment. Let's hope Beamer doesn't walk out on Jamar a'la Rick Martel on Tito Santana at Wrestlemania V.

Joel Macdonald - Hasn't been absolutely terrible when he has played but conversely hasn't been that good either. Probably on his last legs, though imagine did the controversial Garland trade - he could stick around for another year just for depth purposes or in case Tom McDonald does a Nathan Carroll and plays half a good year before becoming a turnip.

Mark Neeld - I like the guy but god knows if he's any good as a coach yet. Certainly not using anything that has happened so far as a base to decide. Let's talk in more depth on this subject in exactly one year's time.

Daniel Nicholson - Runs quickly, has a red hot go and does a few nice things but would he be there if we were any good? I suspect he'll find himself on the senior list next year but (and feel free to prove me wrong Dan) doesn't seem like the kind of guy who'll be there in five years.

Cameron Schwab - Cops it almost as much as Morton thanks to his alleged involvement in 186 and the fact that he was supposedly going to get the arse before it and somehow wound up coming out with a contract extension. Still, as much of a disaster as Energy Watch turned out to be at least we only had to spend a couple of weeks on footy's equivalent of the Dole

Jai Sheahan - Has apparently been quite good for Casey. I've been to one game in two and a half seasons I'm hardly in a position to judge.

Rory Taggert - Likewise.

Luke Tapscott - We all loved his cheapshot on Fasolo, and he's shown a bit here and there but really not hitting any great heights yet. Has plenty of time to get it right.

Josh Tynan - Odd selection in Round 1 but wasn't the worst before being shot as one of the patsies for our terrible performance. Injured after that but future looks respectable.

Jack Watts - Some good performances down back in the last month and the title of the best kicker-inerer in the last decade aside he's hardly setting the world alight. Will sadly suffer by comparison to others for years to come, here's hoping he can go forward again and become the player we wanted rather than a glorified Jared Rivers style loose man in defence for the rest of his life.

Where Are They Now?

Michael Evans - Started promisingly, got injured. Never seen again. Can't see him surviving the end of the year.

Max Gawn - Considering the run we've had over the last few years it's a surprise that there haven't been more 'serious' injury victims. Shame, then, that it had to happen to a guy threatening to be a massive (in all senses of the word) cult figure. Doesn't get enough credit for looking just like Jaws from the James Bond movies.

Jordan Gysberts - What a mysterious figure. Played a few belting games in his first 18 but then again so did Morton and that hasn't turned out particularly well for anyone. Double injuries this year have ruined his season but I'll take somebody who is averaging almost 20 possessions a game in his career so far. If he can stop getting hurt so often we've got a good ten years to ram home the advantage in the McLean trade like we are on Johnstone vs Grimes.

Neville Jetta - Unfortunately for Nifty Nev somebody's going to have to go at the end of the year, and as we're unlikely to engage in a full scale two-for-one style trading frenzy he might cop it in the neck as a consequence. I've always liked the guy but at the end of his fourth year it could be curtains unless he can back into the side before the end of the year.

Liam Jurrah - Hard to say he was rushed back too early considering he'd played two full games in the VFL beforehand but still looked well out of it back in the seniors. No surprises considering the off-season he's had and the fact that the one game he did play we were being humped like a German Shepherd.

The Stefan Martin Experience - Kicked 10 goals in 21 games last year (all of which came in five matches, four of which were wins) then suddenly expected to be our 'other' tall forward rather than a pinch hitter. Played two games, got dropped twice and ended up at Casey where he was injured while we were left with either Sellar floundering or Clark taken away from where he could do the most damage. Give me back my SME you bastards.

James Strauss - Has done well to make it back into the seconds so quickly after snapping his leg in two. Not sure if he's storming back into the seniors anytime soon but should be right next year. Then we find out if he's actually any good.

Leigh Williams - Very rarely do any of our players end up in a coma off-field rather than at the start of the third quarter. Tremendously speculative rookie pick and will almost certainly get a second year but stranger things have happened (Come in Cameron Johnston). Would want to be at least making half an impact for the Casey 1's by the end of the season.

The rest of the year
Thanks to the Pies game we're 6pts above where I thought we'd be at this point of the year. The Brisbane, Adelaide and Port wins plus the Pies draw were unexpected wins I didn't see us having but I would have taken any money on beating North and West Coast.

The rest of the year;
Round 13 - GWS (MCG)
To be entirely frank I'm shitting myself about this. It would be bad enough to lose to either of franchises at the moment (and god knows we tried hard against Gold Coast last year) but to see $cully celebrating and Sheedy strutting around like he's exacted some vengeance on us for not picking him as coach five years ago.

Not to put too much pressure on but everyone involved needs to know that we're going to smash the joint up (sadly not literally) if they win. I think we'll get up but I'm not banking it yet. Ironically their two biggest losses all season have come against two teams who are also no good so with any luck we'll tonk them and $cully will catch a flesh eating bacteria.

Round 14 - Brisbane (Gabba)
The only non-Melbourne metro ground that we've got half a decent record at during the dark years, and surely their win over us in R1 was as good as it got for them against us. Having said that they've not been terrible by virtue of having played so many games against pox clubs so I'm going to assume a loss.

Round 15 - Richmond (MCG)
Cue half a million flashback articles to last year's game. They could be on the turn after recent performances, so here's to a return to the rancid and stinky Tigers outfits of old. Still not keen that we're going to win.

Round 16 - Fremantle (Docklands)
Bored to death in front of 8000 people. Can't wait. Another loss.

Round 17 - Port Adelaide (Marrara)
Better than they were when we fell over the line the last two years. Not confident about this one either. So effectively at this point I've still got us on two wins, what a wonderful world.

Round 18 - North Melbourne (Docklands)
If we're ever going to win a game at Docklands this is it (for this year at least, considering it's our last game there). They're not very good but they are slightly better than us. If we do what we should against GWS and get on a roll of decent performances I could see us winning this but don't hold your breath.

Round 19 - Gold Coast (MCG)
Now surely this one we do win. Everyone just jump on Ablett and kick it to whoever's playing on Warnock.

Round 20 - St Kilda (MCG)
Good performance against them earlier in the year aside I seriously doubt we're going to challenge this time - especially considering they'll be knee deep in a life/death battle for the finals at this point.

Round 21 - GWS (Manuka)
Their mid-season revival will have petered out by this point, so for once I'm confidently predicting victory. Now watch us get done by ten goals.

Round 22 - Adelaide (MCG)
Not their best venue but nah.

Round 23 - Fremantle (S)
Them again? By this point they should either by done for and playing the kids or fighting tooth and nail for a spot in the eight, so that could be the big difference between being close and being tonked. Hopefully for us the third scenario comes up and they're well and truly in, it doesn't matter where they finish, and they rest everyone. Would be nice to go out with a win and snap our Perth hoodoo at the same time.

End of the year
If this thread is in any way correct there's a frightening amount of players we still have to sign up.

So, assuming Davey doesn't do the right thing and put his hand up to let the last year of the contract slide I'll go with.

OUT: Dunn, Petterd (trade), Green (retired), Bate, Bennell, Jetta, Spencer (delist) + Evans and Lawrence (rookie delist)
IN: Kids + some rejects from elsewhere + more mature aged rookies + for christ sake please an AFL standard small forward. Plus Nicholson and Magner promoted to the senior list.

Conclusion
If we lose next week then the rest of the year is going to be chock full of hate and recrimination. Probably from me. In reality it's not the end of the world if we don't win it, and probably doesn't have any impact on what follows, but god knows I'll be acting like it is.

Conversely even we tonk them it doesn't mean we're going to cut a swathe through the 'easier' second half draw. So yeah, either we'll be good or bad. How's that for analysis? I should get a job as Chief Football Writer of the Herald Sun with skills like that.

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