Saturday, 14 July 2012

50 Shades of Brown

With my patience for this season rapidly wearing thin, and the prospect of having to watch four quarters of the two most boring teams in the competition 'duking it out' in mediocre fashion there was every possible chance on Saturday morning that this post was just going to be abuse directed at everyone who went out of their way to find a reason not to turn up to the match.

The only thing that saved you - the beloved reader - from this fate was that we put in a half decent (albeit ultimately fruitless) performance. Moreover the game wasn't nearly as tedious as you'd expect, and we not only managed to avoid the worst attendance in the brief, painful history of Docklands but it wasn't even our own lowest crowd at the place. In fact it wasn't even our lowest crowd against Freo in recent years, so is Docklands really to blame? Maybe not, maybe our fans just bolt for the exits whenever things get ugly late in the season? Another win for the Big Book 'o Footy Stereotypes.

Ok, so circumstances conspired against a decent crowd that day at the MCG, but it proves that it's not always all about the stadium. No doubt this week would have had a bigger crowd at the MCG - but financial considerations aside is it any less shameful to get 16k at your home ground than 13k at Aeroflot Stadium when you're forced to play there? Either way it's the sort of shit result that was odds on the moment they started broadcasting everything live so nobody should be too surprised.

Not that I'd give up the live telecasts of all the other games just to put an extra two thousand on the gate for this monstrosity but it does irk me when people use the stadium as their excuse not to turn up. I hate the place, you hate the place, everyone hates the bloody place but sacrifice is what supporting your team is all about. Horrible venue it might be, but to complain about one home game there a year when the best part of a hundred years was spent with people traipsing to slop venues like Victoria Park and the Western Oval seems a bit like a convenient way to say "I think we're going to lose, therefore I'm not going to leave the house" without looking like you've given up. Truth be told if money were no consideration I'd rather watch footy in crowds that size every week, but not because 2/3 of our membership can't be stuffed.

Sure you had to pay extra for a level 2 seat even if you had a premium membership, sure it costs $25 to park (unless you park at Harbourtown Shopping Centre where they're so desperate for a buck they'll let you stay there all day for about $10) and sure their "Snag Bar" gourmet sausages are just fecal matter in a roll compared to the Kaiser's Sausage but that's life. My favourite part was the AFL Members getting the same rubbish level one seats that the rest of us did. You give your money directly to the league and you get screwed, that seems apt.

I'm aware there are some of our fans who you wouldn't get to Docklands unless there were dancing girls parading up and down each aisle and they were giving away a million dollars at half time, but no doubt they'll be queueing en masse to get in (and if there's more than 15,000 people in the ground there will be queues) once we start winning there again. Just admit you're not interested because we're crap instead of coming up with dodgy reasons not to show.

Having said that, in a way I don't blame the majority of our membership (and extended hangers on) for finding any excuse not to be there. Not only was it being held at the ground with the surliest security guards around, but a battle between the team in 16th place and one with a fast growing reputation for putting crowds and TV audiences alike to sleep hardly promised a terrific spectacle. Still, what an embarassment of a crowd. Thank god for Richmond's ludicrous, MFC-esque capitulation against the Gold Coast and Harmeichal's 'fairytale goal' (copyright AFL media) to take the heat off us a bit.

Considering the surprising amount of Freo fans there it's fair to say that less than 10,000 of ours bothered. I know we're rubbish this week, I know we'll be rubbish next week and I know we've got bugger all fans anyway, but it really makes mocking Gold Coast and GWS' attendance figures redundant. Just like 186 ruined my joy of watching teams lose by 120, our crowds at Docklands stuff up my enjoyment of laughing at other teams for having nobody turn up.

No doubt some had legitimate reasons, but surely that's the same every week and we usually get at least 18k. If you really did have to go to your Aunt Hortense's 93rd birthday or risk being struck out from her will then fair enough. If you were legitimately otherwise occupied you know in your heart that you're pure, and I can at least understand where you're coming from if you just flat out refused to show up because we're shit but if you're hiding solely behind dislike of stadium then find a better excuse.

The best thing to encourage people to get out and make some noise again would be to win at the godforsaken place, and early on it looked like one of those days where nobody is in the ground but a year later everyone claims to have been there. Much like the '08 comeback against the Dockers where there were officially 19,423 in the stadium, but about 40,000 people reckon they were there.

Any expectation that it would be four quarters of grim, boring back and forth struggle a'la World War I were dispelled early when we kicked more goals in the first ten minutes than we usually do in a half. It's very rarely 'all happening' when you're a Melbourne fan, but this was about as close as you could get. Winning it out of the centre, going forward with some confidence, The Stefan Martin Experience continuing to show he's a handy enough forward target etc.. etc.. Bennell even managed to deliver some good old fashioned crumb shortly before the football gods punished him for going against the spirit of the MFC by blowing his knee out in spectacular fashion.

It could have been even more had they not goalled from a bullshit free kick (first of many), and had Petterd not missed the sort of set shot that you cannot afford to miss if you're in the precarious position he is. Then just as quickly as it started Freo realised just how ludicrous the situation was and started playing properly again. Normal service resumed and it seemed our brave uprising was about to be crushed when we recovered to kick the last two and take a handy lead off the back of our best first quarter of the year - against a real team too.

We've been here before of course, never before against Freo at Docklands but most certainly against Freo and at Docklands individually. Maybe nobody else remembers the return game against the Dockers at Subiaco in '08 when we kicked five goals to nil in the first quarter, then copped five in the second and wound up losing by 46. I do only due to the fact that I was forced to listen to it in bed after going to work half cut on at most one hours sleep (surely the statute of limitations has passed by now) post-epic youthful night out then having to help rescue people from a trapped lift. Another memorable day ruined by the Demons.

What you will remember was our performance against North last year when we were riding high on having thrashed Adelaide, and Juice briefly thought he was John Coleman before reverting to playing like Phil Gilbert. Result, a 41 point loss. Today we kick the first three, then steady to boot another two at the end of the quarter, lead at every change and lose by 34. One thing that following this club will teach you is not to trust anyone or anything ever.

The most bizarre aspect of the first quarter was that Joel Macdonald of all people racked up 12 possessions. He wasn't much chop for the rest of the game, and only had another ten for the match but it was still a bizarre start. How good was his handball at the end to set up Sylvia's goal? Nobody will remember that though, like Morton it'll be the blunders that everyone's talking about this morning.

Chances are that once Clark and (hopefully) Jurrah are back next year, allowing the defenders to go and do what they're supposed to do, he'll be pensioned off but I still carry a torch for him despite the occasional howler. After all nobody seems at that concerned at the moment that Tom McDonald can't kick to save himself. Bloody good defender though, knows exactly what he's doing with his opponent and takes a good overhead mark. Another reason why the next time Joel Mac is dropped that might be the end for him. Not to mention the mysterious figure of Demonblog's own Troy Davis who will inevitably play before the end of the season. At least they're young and can improve, to be fair Joel Mac is probably now exactly what he's always going to be and is rapidly running out of chances.

Speaking of the old defender switcheroo I wonder what the logic was behind leaving Rivers in the forward line and sending Garland back? Let's not get seduced by the day he beat up GWS, Rivers is no forward - so if we have to play one of them down there out of necessity why not play the one who at least has some history doing it? Not to mention that professional looking lead/mark he pulled off last week. Leading inside 50 must have contravened some sort of team rule, because that was the end of him.

At least this week when it went wrong it wasn't because we were getting it forward every five seconds and not capitalising - they just couldn't get it down there in the first place. Ross Lyon finally achieved his dream of boring everybody to death not long after the second quarter started, and that suited Freo perfectly. All of a sudden we couldn't get it past the middle of the ground and the defence standing up bravely was the only thing stopping us from conceding goals at a rapid rate. Unfortunately their disposal was usually part of the problem as well as the solution, and the amount of times they were called upon to stop goals would have been much less if they'd been able to clear it properly in the first place.

In the end all the good work was undone when Freo finally got a goal after nobody bothered to kill the ball as it floated through for a point from a set shot and Kepler Bradley - bizarre by name, bizarre by nature - marked and goalled. Later in the quarter Rivers failed to make the distance from 40m out (Garland would have got it) and the ball dropped neatly into a Freo player's arms because we had nobody standing in the vicinity. That said Freo player botched the mark and it rolled through for a point seemed at the time that it could come back to haunt them. It didn't. How many times have we not had players back - either in attack or defence - this season? These are the signs of players who need their heads read.

Considering how badly we were being outplayed in the middle the quarter didn't go too badly for us, they only took seven points off the quarter time lead which said more for our defence and their mission to kick it at Pav every single time than it did for anything the rest of our side did. With Jamar having gone off re-injured the SME was battling gamefully in the ruck, but with not a solitary option available to give him a rest you could see he was starting to fade even before half time. He also appeared to cop one in the plums at some point, which would slow any man down. Knowing our luck he'll probably be out for the rest of the season with a shattered cruet.

Grimes also hurt himself during the quarter, which you may not have noticed considering his atrocious kicking throughout the rest of the day. I've almost forgotten what it was like to have him play every week after his various injury shenanigans over the years but surely he wasn't this bad a kick early last year? There's no need to ditch him but how about a few (hundred) extra drills on keeping the ball inside the boundary line? Then there was his ambitious kick into the middle of the ground in the last quarter which absolutely brought the house down and caused all sorts of wild scenes. Very strange stuff, and I do wonder if the pressure gets to GRIMGOVE sometimes. Probably doesn't help them that the rest of the leadership group are dropping like flies, and that the old leaders are either playing for Casey, injured or trying to regain their own form without having to carry two kids.

While all this was going on wasn't there some absolutely farcical umpiring? Went both ways as it usually does, but how about Sylvia being spun around and having it fall off the end of his hand for play on? Then just to ensure equality later on Jones goes out of bounds and then gets done for a throw. And the 50 in the last quarter after the ball had gone 10 metres for a 'mark', which was just taking the piss out of us considering we'd already stuffed the match up by that point. There were probably about 10 other absolute howlers that I've pushed out of my memory. It feel like we were on the end of more of the shambles (though I would say that), but there were certainly ups and downs for both teams. Difference was that they got goals out of theirs and we got frees on the HBF, presenting us the golden opportunity to give the ball back in the middle of the ground.

The half-time lead notwithstanding you could tell that Freo had our measure. Already having lost Jamar, and looking like we were going to lose a second in Grimes (no thought yet to Bennell's disaster), they were always going to run over the top of us. It was just a matter of how long the resistance could hold out. Once they realised than an open, exciting game offered them absolutely nothing and started pressuring us again our kicking efficiency plummeted and any danger of going from one end to the other seamlessly was lost. In fact we were lucky to get it past half way.

It wasn't all massive doom and gloom, there were some positives. It was good to see Strauss out there again, unexpected as it was to even see him in the side at all before he came in late for Tapscott much less on-field ten minutes into the first quarter when Jamar went down. They probably didn't budget for him to play 95% of the match so it was no surprise that he faded as the game went on, but there were signs in the first half that he could be the accurate kicker out of the backline that we so desperately need at the moment. Deserves plenty more chances this year and I hope they stick with him next week even though he was lucky to be out there.

Alas it can't always be good news, even when you're winning. Crowley has taken everybody else out this season and did a good job on Jones for most of the day, Petterd and Bate did nothing, Howe has lost it a bit in the last few weeks and Blease went missing for most of the game when he wasn't kicking arsey goals. There were too many passengers for us to carry without a firing midfield. Trengove was better this week but I'm still not convinced he's 100% - would certainly help both him and Jones if Moloney could get back and start playing decent footy again. Bail was better than last week, which is not hard, and I'm continually impressed by Nicholson but the bit-part players need some marquee names in front of them to draw the heat while they knock around looking more fancy than they actually are.

I expect Tom Couch to fit the mould of bit-part player perfectly based on what I saw today. He'll get better with more games in the seniors, and in no way disappointed me, but despite the most concerted lobbying campaign in history there's a reason why he hasn't played until now. He's a spare parts man, and my expectations were set low accordingly so he could never really disappoint. He had a few touches, got a couple of clearances, didn't mind getting his hands dirty (CLICHE) and even got to replace Magner in all fashions by having a stint playing as a woefully outmatched and ineffectual forward option. Worth persisting with for a few weeks but in all likelihood neither of them is there if we're playing for a spot in the eight anytime soon.

Speaking of makeshift forward lines which did nothing, is there any danger of giving Howe another proper run down there? Even if he does kick for goal like Pegleg Pete, he's levelled out noticably in the last month playing around the ground so do something to try and get him back into the game. Franklin is a pox shot at goal most of the time too, but he has enough shots that he finally gets it right. If Howe could have four or five shots a week he'll probably kick two goals at least, and that's like seven or eight when you play in our forward line. Admittedly the loss of Jamar and subsequent permanent move of Martin into the ruck cost us a mobile forward target who was looking dangerous, but even with Green back to some measure of his old form we could have done with somebody down there who can jump over a pack. Petterd wasn't going to do it, Bate can't do it and no matter what combination of defenders you use up front none of them are going be taking screamers either. If you're that keen on Watts playing back then give Howe another go down there next week. Darwin is hardly the place to be for massive overhead grabs anyway so I can't see him delivering too much around the ground - let's switch to forward line plan C now that there's nothing to lose. Not that there was this week or last week either, except our dignity.

Those of you who have been following our fortunes at the start of third quarters as closely as I have this year will have noted with disgust the fact that we copped the first three goals again as it started to look ominous. At least only one of them was within the first five minutes this time (I've given up following the total for the season, it's too depressing). Then, even with Bennell going off for good, Martin out on his feet and Grimes clearly not fully fit something absolutely ludicrous happened and we booted four in a row out of our arse - right out of the left corner of it if Blease's goal was anything to go by - and were clear again.

Despite his penchant for youthful fading away in large swathes of the game, the last few weeks have convinced me that we've got to keep Blease out of the clutches of GWS. Reactivating the Miami Vice style partnership with $cully might be nice for him (and would provide the other with millions in the bank at least one mate in Sydney), but once Sam learns to impose himself (CLICHE) on the game for four quarters instead of flashing in and out his pace is going to be damaging. Hopefully it's damaging for us instead of against us. Very much worth trying to artificially get him into the game over the next few weeks.

When he kicked that arsey goal confidence hit sky high proportions both on and off field, and you could have been forgiven for getting a little bit sucked in and wondering whether we were about to do it. There was my your first mistake. The next thing the ball is bounced and 20 seconds later Freo are kicking a goal, totally negatating the absolute corker than Don Johnson had just kicked.

And that was it for the rest of the day, when the goal went in the white flag attendants both consulted the codes handcuffed to their wrists, punched them in and started to slowly unfurl in preparation for our surrender. I don't know whether to blame the decreased rotations after the dual game ending injuries or if they simply relaxed at opening up the lead near the end of the quarter, but the next goal came when the Freo sub (some guy nobody outside of WA has ever heard of) came on and ran right past Sylvia without even the slightest hint of pressure. Whether it was fatigue or just classic Col, Sylvia couldn't stop him, and couldn't get close enough in the chase to put any pressure on. We still led by seven but the writing was well and truly on the wall.

I thought the much needed rest provided by the three-quarter time break might delay the inevitable a bit longer, and that we'd make it 15/20 minutes in before total breakdown but in the end it took them just five minutes to put the game away. From there on they didn't even have to play boring football to trample all over us. Result, another goalless final term when the game was there to be won. Yet last week we booted a bunch of goals in the final term when the sting was out of the game (CLICHE). What does that tell us? It can't all be fitness, there's got to be something mental about it as well. Another result that puts the ridiculousness of the Essendon result into focus - if they'd been anything but completely incompetent at converting chances it would have been exactly like this result and we'd have been done by six goals.

There were times today when we looked like a real life league side, but we're never going to get anywhere by doing it for 10 minutes twice a game. We're still lacking options in the midfield, Jones can't do it every week. Also a CHF (and for god's sake not Travis Cloke please, I think I'd rather lose) and defenders who can pinpoint targets to complement the ones who can only hoof it long. Not to mention proper crumbers. And marking forwards. And players who can kick to a lead. And players who can lead in the first place. Pretty much everything really.

2012 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Stefan Martin (went hard all day, even when he was stuffed and/or had damage in the knackers)
4 - Tom McDonald (can't kick for shit but is still a permanent fixture now)
3 - Brad Green (our only useful forward target, but how much does he have left?)
2 - Daniel Nicholson (four quarters of taking the game on - CLICHE)
1 - Jordie McKenzie (kept Hill relatively quiet, laid ten tackles, nobody else deserved it)

Apologies of sorts to Sylvia (too many dumb kicks to nobody), Frawley (held Pavlich for the first half), Macdonald (first quarter), Strauss (encouraging), Grimes (marked down harshly for costly mistakes) and Bail (better than expected).

Leaderboard
Jones fails to extend his lead, but with his next two closest competitors both absent there's no sign yet that provisional winner isn't going to turn into official winner. As it is Watts would have to be BOG every week through the GWS game to catch him IF Jones didn't score another point, so I think you can put this one in the bank for the $3.50 pre-season favourite. The good news is that these awards have absolutely no concern with 'fairest' so even if he king hits an umpire behind play he'll still win it comfortably.

The SME takes advantage of there being nobody else who was any good to put a stranglehold on his second consecutive Stynes Medal, and again I'm convinced that he was worth the votes and I'm not just getting horny over him because of favourite player status. God forbid he and Jamar can ever get on the same field again for more than ten minutes I'm even more convinced they can be a dangerous combo.

Also Tom McDonald moves towards an unprecedented double victory by grabbing the lead in the Seecamp and taking advantage of the time honoured 'debut in the last month' clause to tie the fast fading Magner in the race for the Hilton.

43 - Nathan Jones (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year)
20 - Jack Watts
19 - Mitch Clark
16 - Stefan Martin (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
15 - Jordie McKenzie
14 - Jeremy Howe
13 - James Magner (CO-LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year), Tom McDonald (CO-LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year, LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
10 - Jack Grimes, Jared Rivers
9 - Tom McDonald
8 - Matthew Bate
7 - Colin Sylvia
6 - James Frawley
5 - Clint Bartram, Sam Blease
4 - Jack Trengove, Brent Moloney, Daniel Nicholson
3 - Brad Green, Mark Jamar
1 - Rohan Bail, Sam Blease, James Sellar

Crowd Watch
The only upside to being forced to congregate with 'the people' in the bottom deck of that place is that you're forced to sample the full range of 'interesting' people instead of hiding from them in the top level of the Ponsford like I usually do.

During the first quarter I was sitting behind the cheersquad at the end to which we were booting goals out of our arse at a rapid rate. Which was, as you'd expect given the shocking action taking place in front of us, a great atmosphere except for the old guy behind me who yelled something along the lines of "AHHH GAN WANNA BUY YAH" in some sort of Irish/Scottish/Welsh accent every minute no matter what was happening on field. I thought he was a bit special, which would make it ok, but at one point when I turned my headphones down to try and make out what he was saying he was clearly heard to provide the guy next to him with the time in completely normal fashion.

After that I abandoned the art of sitting and took to standing out the back, which you can do without too many nutters when there's 105 people in the ground. It was there that I saw one of the great outbursts of recent times, reminscent of my shameful behaviour the day Petterd dropped the mark and we lost to Collingwood by a point. When Grimes did his ill-advised kick into the middle which ended in tragedy for Joel Macdonald a heavily bearded gentlemen, wearing far too much merchandise considering he was well into middle-age, stood up, barged his way past the three or four people in his row, delivered a lusty kick to the stairs, punched a seat and screamed "I CAN'T TAKE THIS FUCKING CLUB ANYMORE".

It was all a bit over the top, I know that having a shock win dangled in front of you and then snatched away can be traumatic and we've all cracked the sads in epic fashion over that sort of thing before but surely if you're the sort of person who is prone to outbursts like that you've already seen everything you need to break your heart over the last few years? Either way, that's passion - and you know that no matter what beardo screams at Aisle 36 he'll be back next time for more punishment. I recognised a fellow traveller, and saw a glimpse into my own future - except there will not be beards no matter how middle-aged I get.

There's one advantage of this stadium, if you tried to do that at the MCG you'd smash your foot to pieces but at Docklands the whole bottom level is made of wood so you can boot buggery out of it to soothe your soul all day long. To be entirely honest it did lighten my mood a bit in that last quarter, just when I needed it. I started thinking about how amusing it would have been if he'd tripped when he kicked the seat and gotten up to continue his rants with blood everywhere across the face and that put an undeserved, and possibly morally questionable, smile on my face. Then we copped another goal and I booted a Coke Zero bottle over to ensure the resumption of normal service.

Finally as I was walking home some munter with his hood tied up to the point where you could only see between his eyes and mouth gave me an "up the mighty Dees". I couldn't tell if he was being sarcastic or was another 'disturbed' character so he got ignored lest it ended with us having a life-and-death grappling session in the middle of Glenferrie Road.

Also, for want of anywhere better to put this, did anybody see the ad for the "Carlton Draught Substitute" where they tried to pretend that calling it that was some sort of anti-drinking message. They even dared to call it an 'initiative' at the end. Oh yeah, real community message against drinking - putting stickers on the back of the sub vests mentioning a booze brand and ramming a few more mentions of the brand down our throat on the scoreboard during the game. Yes indeed, how do these people live every day knowing that they haven't yet won a Nobel Peace Prize for their work in stopping people being pissheads.

I presume given that it's a community initiative that all the money they got from Carlton Draught as part of that particular sponsorship has been donated to charity? No, it's probably been donated to the GWS payroll fund like everything else this year. Also notable that it's Luke Power in the ad, just another excuse to roll out the GWS uniform and shove the fact that they're owned by the league down our throats. At least it's a step up on $cully and his Skoda ad where he smiles broadly because he knows there's a cheque in it for him.

MFC Facebook Comment of the Week
(maybe don't watch this video at work? Or in front of your granny. Original version here)

Plenty of the usual wailing and squealing like stuck pigs, but this guy was definitely best on ground. Not only for being so negative that he declares we won't win a game after we've won two - but for mashing the keyboard in such spectacular fashion that it appears to have broken.
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Note that there were no comments featuring anybody calling him a 'wanker' etc so either they really do censor the civil war comments or he's completely off his trolley. Either could be true.

On the other hand this guy was absolutely nailed the essence of the MFC Facebook page.
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This feature is officially cancelled at the end of the year. Having to trawl through the musings of these misfits and dead set nutbags is almost as depressing as watching the club itself.

Midweek madness

During the week I was lucky enough to have my number come out of the Hertz Rentacar 10-gallon drum and scored an invite to one of the famous Members Information Nights (or, if you're a Herald Sun journo 'crisis meetings'). Now they did ask for discretion in regards to certain stuff that was shown or said (none of it absolute dynamite mind you), so I'm not going to act like the Drudge Report and blow the lid on absolutely everything I heard but it was certainly an interesting evening and worth your while if you ever score an invite.

The masterstroke of the evening was that before they got to the question and answer portion of the evening, and the presumed cavalcade of angsty questions, Neeld showed match review footage from the Richmond game featuring some of the outright stupid things our players do off their own bat. Obviously you wouldn't edit the footage to make your own moves look stupid, but seeing some of the bonehead moves last week couldn't help but make you feel sorry for him.

On the other hand they did show some examples of things our players did right, with the implication that they weren't earlier in the year, so the implication was - as always - that they're making progress. Which in a way I understand, but the way people intimately involved in the club look at things can't possibly be compared to the way we see it. They're probably right in the end, and certainly have more wacky stats and camera angles with which to prove it, but they'll never understand the helplessness we feel watching slop week after week for five years and counting.

Not that I was ever going to tee off, but you can understand if they expect everyone is a salivating lunatic who is trying to sack everybody. The guy (EDIT - apparently it's a girl, the trauma still applies) who does the Facebook page must stagger past Don McLardy or Cameron Schwab, white as a ghost, sweating bullets and looking like he's just gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson every Monday morning. Luckily we're not all like that, maybe during games but not in our every day lives, so the Q&A session went off without any real unpleasantness.

I think the match review footage, and an overview of why what we were seeing was either good or bad (but mostly bad) took some heat out of the room. Nobody turned up looking like they were going to do their block and try to start a fistfight, but there was more than one person who walked in clutching a set of pre-prepared questions which they expected to be able to go through one-by-one. Luckily they were

Other than the first guy who asked a question and was so keen to get his hand in the air that he almost did his shoulder and then demanded a ruthless cull of the list, there was a noticeable lack of hysteria in the air. Thank god too. What it meant was that people could actually ask decent questions, and get decent answers.

The ruthless cull call was about as bad as it got. Obviously none of the footy department were biting, even if they're planning to do exactly that in two months time. They did have some interesting figures about how many players Collingwood and Richmond have axed over the last few years (short answer - heaps) which tended to hint that they will be opening fire after Round 23. It's not exactly the opening scene of Scarface, you can't just put everyone you don't want in a leaky boat and push them out to sea, but I can see a lot of changes either in exchange or via execution. Stand by for blood dripping butchery about 15 minutes after the plane lands on the return from Perth in Round 23. Either that or stand by for all the players that you hate being retained next year just for trolling purposes.

The last thing I'll say about is that Neeld could never be accused of not believing in his program. To an almost fanatical degree. He was doing a few gags throughout, but he had a convincing sounding answer to everything that was asked of him. Whether any of it stands up in the end or not is anybody's guess at the moment but at least you know he's fully committed to the cause and is unlikely to waver due to what you, me, the media or random nutbags think. The nature of the night didn't lend itself to follow-up questions but he'd be fascinating to sit down and have a one-on-one sensible conversation with from a fan's perspective.

Also I finally got to ask my question about support for players who are depressed at losing every week while the club gets flogged in the media. The answer is that there are no sports psychologists or shrinks on the payroll, but there is a Mental Skills Coach (and what do you know there is). God knows what he does but he's probably the busiest man at AAMI Park.

Now, I'm a soft touch for these sorts of things but it reinforced my belief that not smashing the panic button yet is the sensible way to go. I guess in our own special way we've all been guilty of gross disrespect of our sporting betters at one point or another, but usually as long as it doesn't cross into sporting vendettas or end up with Travis Cloke's house being shot at it's generally ok. Still, I'd love to sit behind the old two-way mirror and watch a session of Neeld vs the top shelf of virulently angry internet nutbags.

Next Week
After calling for a bloodthirsty chop at the selection table last week it seems strange to retreat from that in the face of a disappointing loss, but other than the injuries - and Bate who can go for Moloney - I'm happy to back them in for a full game. Apparently both the Spencil and Fitzpatrick were amongst the best at Casey, so one of them may as well have a go considering we've got nothing to play for other than giving ourselves a chance of finishing fourth last.

IN: Spencer, Moloney, Gysberts
OUT: Bennell, Jamar (inj), Bate (omit)

Even though Petterd was ordinary I'm prepared to give him another go at getting it right, but if he gives a similar level of doughnut then that could be it. Either way I'm not renewing the lease on Free Ricky Petterd campaign headquarters past this Thursday night. Couch gets another go too, but I'm not sure that he's not doing exactly the same thing Magner is and marking time until we find somebody else who can do it better. Such is life for a rookie list player.

Final Thoughts
Good to see them boot an Auskick game off for another round of AFL 9's. Memo to the league, nobody in Victoria cares - take your footy for ponces and showcase it in northern states. The goal should be to get as many kids as possible onto league grounds, not a bunch of middle aged dickheads who look like they're running around in a local park.

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