Anybody still out there? If the Melbourne FC extinction program hasn't been brought forward a decade I suppose there is, and that we'll just have to put up with the next five weeks. Believe it or not there are two games in that five where we might even start as favourites, which will either end in much needed wins or the sort of outcry and self-loathing that Richmond fans provided the perfect template for us to take up and run with.
But before looking forward to the potential banana skins/outright debacles in our future it would only be polite to look back on another magic afternoon at Docklands. Our 14th 'magic' game there in a row. You'd like to think that set some sort of record for futility at a single ground, until you scroll down further to find out we've lost 15 straight at Football Park. And 12 at Subiaco.
All three of those (equalling 41 straight losses #statmybitchup fans) are still individually stuck behind the 16 in a row at the MCG between R15 1980 and R21 1981 and 17 at Princes Park from R11 1970 to R15 1982, but we're slowly getting there. Don't let anyone tell you that there's absolutely no reason to keep following this club, because at least you're seeing historic records tumble like nine pins. Wait, what do you mean I'm the only person on the planet who finds any interest in that sort of thing? Yeah, well you can find your own way to get through the next few years then.
Despite the black cloud of horror hovering over the top of everything we do I still wake up every match day with an eagerness for the contest. 'Eagerness' is probably overselling it - it's more like a wino waking up and looking forward to downing a six pack before eating a rat for breakfast. At least he can get it over and done with, I had to wait until 2.10pm to start chowing down on this week's edition of Black Plague Souffle.
So being the antsy, disturbed individual that I am midday rolls around and I decide the best thing to do is to walk to the ground in order to show up as close to the bounce as possible. It should be clear to anybody who hasn't given up yet that this is the best time to arrive at a Melbourne match. It's not like you're ever fighting for best placement, and if it's a home game you'll also miss that velvet jacketed poon warbling on his trumpet. If that guy's not the first delisting at the end of the season I'll [insert empty threat here].
Alas usually nerves get the better of me and I find myself sitting in an empty stadium an hour before the first bounce with nothing to do other than eat kransky and delude myself as to our chances of winning. Not this week though, I had it all timed perfectly to show up as close to the start as possible. Obviously the even more sensible thing to do would have been to walk the other way and go to Vermont South for no apparent reason, but as with every other week for the last six years misguided enthusiasm drew me towards the game and I was eventually rewarded with disappointment and disaster in equal measure.
Not only was the walk intended to fill two hours that I had absolutely nothing else of value to do in (yes, the fun never stops at Demonblog Towers VIII) but it was intended to be painful, a local version of those nutbags in the Phillipines who crucify each other every Easter for some arcane Jesus-based reason.
Punishment was duly dished out. Not from sore feet or the eventual result of the match but by pissing rain starting to 'fall' (or more accurately plummet) on me just as soon as I got far enough away from home to turn back for a car or away from any form of public transport. So I had that going for me. Then, quickening the pace as the prospect of being soaked through all day in a windy stadium, I hastened towards a major road and the security of a tram. Then just as I got there the sun came out again. Needless to say at this point I gave up well short of the city and instead of timing my run perfectly to avoid any pre-match 'entertainment' featuring James Sherry (another one one likely to Google himself a'la Hamish McLachlan and Tim Gossage) I ended up being there an hour early with about 75 other tragic individuals. None of whom were sitting within 15 rows of me thank god.
Believe it or not as much as everything above this line makes it sound like an experience on par with being dragged to the gas chamber I still like going to games. It still gives me a rush, albeit rapidly diminishing, to see the contest taking place in front of my eyes. It's just that the famous childlike optimism about potential for shock victory has been chipped away to the point where I'm showing up hoping for glimpses of decent football instead of a surprise win. Essendon will go down in history as the proof that 'anything can happen', but good luck pulling anything else off like that again in the near future.
In the end we got pretty much the margin I was budgeting for when first leaving the house all those hours earlier. If him from North had missed that goal after the siren I'd probably have said I was as happy as anybody could be with a near 50 point loss. Near enough is good enough the way we're going. All we got between the first bounce and that last kick was five minutes of decent football by our lot, a bog standard Jeremy Howe hanger, some criminal umpiring decisions in both directions and North putting on a clinic for the rest.
At least after our traditionally god-awful start we didn't get thrashed, and thanks to disinterest from our opponents even managed to win a quarter (by a point) before the match was finished, but if you think that means I'm going to take more than a handful of positives out of it you obviously haven't been reading very closely all these years.
Nathan Jones. That's your highlight. With apologies to Mitch Clark and his faulty foot it's unlikely that anybody will ever win the Best and Fairest in a more dominant fashion than he's going to this season. He's still the only person on the list to have improved post-186, and given that it started immediately after Bailey got the boot I choose to believe that's the reason.
It certainly helped having Moloney back. I wasn't as crazy about Beamer's game as everyone else was - and the rest of the midfield were plodding at best - but at least he was there to take some of the heat off Jones after two weeks in a row where the opposition knew he was our only decent player and persecuted him accordingly. That's what having midfield options does, and that's what almost every other club in the competition has. Forward options would be nice too, but let's work on one aspect at a time shall we? Oh, I'm just getting word through that we've been working in the midfield issue for five years and it's still unresolved. Balls.
Other than that good luck finding anything to be happy about other than the fact that nobody got hurt. Moloney wasn't particularly damaging, but at least he got his hands on it and provided the aforementioned cover for Jones to run riot. Frawley held Petrie as well as you can a man in that sort of red hot form on the end of 60+ inside 50's and Howe played his best game in six weeks but other than that you'd be reaching to find anything. Sylvia might have rorted a few newspapers into putting him in the 'best' list by playing a cracking junktime, but the rest of us knew that he couldn't get near it for the first three quarters and struggled to even pretend he cared most of the time. There were a lot of triers, but it's not Auskick 'everyone gets a gold star' day.
There weren't nearly as many kicking fiascos as usual, and our efficiency by foot only ended up 2% lower than North but that doesn't make much difference when you can't get the ball in the first place. If we'd got it more chances are we'd have stuffed it up more probably. Of all the Saturday games our kicking was third only behind North and Collingwood, who admittedly were playing an even bigger collection of witches hats than us. I'll accept that Carlton and Richmond were playing in slop conditions, and like most of the rest of Australia had no interest in the Sydney/Gold Coast game (44k TV audience - let the good times roll) but still, at least we did something well for once. Now for increasing the amount of kicks and finding a forward line to boot them at.
Even when we did get the ball they might not have been botching as many kicks as usual but you could tell more than once somebody wasn't following the plan - and most of the backline had a go at not following it.
At least three or four times in the first half somebody would mark it on the half-back flank, have a perfectly good switch option across the ground with another player running on from him but then chose to hoof down the line despite having a teammate standing right next to him screaming for the kick to go back across the ground. Then when they did try to kick one across the ground poor old Joel Macdonald ended up being made to look stupid for the third consecutive week when a slow, high kick gave his opponent three hours to close the ground and stop him from marking it. Maybe he called for it, but maybe you don't have to pretend it's a democracy and honour every request for a pass.
During my foolhardy walk I heard an ad on SEN about some innovative new machines footy clubs are using to teach their players to kick better under pressure. Having seen the switch debacle live from the very back row of the stadium I've been inspired to come up with my own to help our players in the event of them ever winning the kick count again when playing a non-poxy franchise team. It's based on the old Nintendo game Hogan's Alley. The premise is very simple, the players are led into a room with a football in hand and then some targets pop up;
If they kick it at their team-mate (aptly represented by the criminal) they can stay in the team, but if they kick it at the old man or the mother with child they have to go back to Casey. As you can see from the screenshot above Rohan Bail has just had a go.
Decision making problems solved, now to find a forward line - and that's not something you can get from a hi-tech simulator such as the one above. You know the issue as well as I do, so no need to get into it again. Unfortunately it's not going to solve itself in the next few weeks so strap yourself in for another five weeks of frustration as we aimlessly hit and hope to Bail/Couch/Magner surrounded by three opponents. Green will continue to try hard, and hopefully kick a few more goals to convince him to go another year, but you can see why he might be thinking another year is all too much hard work. Especially now that Jurrah is going to trial, meaning that even if he's fit for Round 1 next year he'll probably become 'otherwise occupied' at some point early in the season.
Most of his score might have come when the game was stuffed anyway but Green deserves credit for fighting on despite having nobody around him and getting rancid delivery. On the occasion of his 250th there's still not a lot he can do wrong in my eyes. Fun fact - in 2000 I was half cut the day Farmer kick 9 and tried to offer my then girlfriend to Brad. He wisely said no.
The good news is that forward line or no forward line (answer: no forward line) we're still on track to avoid being the lowest scoring MFC team of the modern era despite narrowly failing to reach our average score for the season. Unfortunately though, a percentage drop to 63.78 leaves us firmly stuck as the 8th worst side in club history. That sad tale in full;
1919 - 42.96
1906 - 48.75
1910 - 59.54
1997 - 60.81
1914 - 61.26
2008 - 62.61
1981 - 63.49
2012 - 63.78*
Now that we've covered the upside (i.e only being 8th worst) it's my unfortunate duty to report that several of our players had no idea. Neville Jetta copped the ultimate Demonblog curse by turning into a pumpkin a week after I'd all but declared his career saved, Trengove is getting the point where they may as well pack him up for the season, Garland couldn't get near it at either end of the field and both Bail and Blease still kick like (OBLIGATORY OLYMPIC REFERENCE FOLLOWS) Oscar Pistorius.
At least Blease is good for a couple of highlights every week even if goes missing more often than the Leyland Brothers. Not only did he kick another quality goal this week, but he also sealed his status as most alternative individual on the list by injuring himself running into a cameraman. Strange and amusing scenarios just seem to follow him around everywhere, and that's good enough reason as any to keep him out of the clutches of Miami Vice and sign him to another contract quick smart. Don't get roped into paying too much though, he's the sort of guy who will end up being crushed to death in a bizarre snooker table incident.
Credit to North for being quite good (and let's not forget, sports fans, that they got to this point without epic draft rorting. Not that they've won any more than we have mind you) but when a 26-year-old rookie playing his seventh game is getting 36 touches then clearly something is still amiss with the opposition. Despite the embittered siege mentality style claims of this guy it's yet another week where we've either made an unheralded youngster or average footballer look like a champion. That practically accounts for the entire Gold Coast list so next week should be fun.
Having recovered from our traditionally shitbox start to plug the gaping holes and actually win the second quarter a neutral observer might have been fooled into thinking that we were going to come out after half time and chip away at the four goal deficit in order to set ourselves up with a chance at the last change. Embittered Melbourne fans, on the other hand, know that there's nothing more likely to lead to uncompetitive, sub-standard football than the first five minutes of a third quarter.
Adding the three goals straight that North kicked that leaves us behind 15.14.104 to 5.6.36 for the year in the first five minutes of Q3 alone. How does a team come out from a 'break' and a 'motivational chat' and do that? Even when we kicked seven goals to no score against GWS our first score didn't come until 5.01. Is this club an elaborate practical joke? Where are the hidden cameras?
For comparative purposes, and without turning this blog completely into the sports equivalent of Antony Green's ABC election coverage, we are 6.5.41 to 9.16.70 down in the first five minutes of Q1, 8.3.51 to 9.14.68 in Q2 and 8.2.44 to 15.15.105 in Q4. So really, the fourth quarter isn't much worse than the third, it's just that we're 209-77 behind in total in second halves - and that's only counting ten minutes per match. I'm fully willing to sit back and wait for the Neeld revolution to take off but for god's sake can that be addressed? It's a pretty obscure stat, but being shit at it isn't helping us.
Anyway, turns out we were no good for most of the rest of this game too so why quibble about what happened in five minutes blocks? There's just not enough support for our good players, and the good players aren't good enough to cover for the VFL fodder. That's our lot in life at least until Round 1 next year, if not 2014, so get used to it. At least next year we'll have a whole new bunch of kids to put unfair expectations on.
One of the few draft picks we've gotten right in the last decade has been Frawley, and he's been a tower of strength in the dark ages, but if I was him I'd seriously start thinking about slapping in a trade request at the end of the year. How much of his career does he want to chew up being the punching bag for the garbage in front of him? It'd be a shitbag move for the fans, but he's the only player we've got who would walk into every top eight side in the competition - and he's got to know that barring a miracle he's going to spend another couple of years under siege before we even potentially turn the corner. Luckily Richmond have sworn off all Frawley's, because he's walk into that team with his eyes shut.
This is the kind of player that clubs are going to be pillaged of when free agency gets into full swing, while we're forced to try and replace them with leftovers like old mate from Moneyball who made for a good movie but still hasn't gone close to winning anything in real life. Effectively the moment you draft a promising youngster you'll have eight years to get good or they'll walk elsewhere. Fair enough, and you won't see me complaining when we steal players from other clubs, but it's a fair warning to clubs like ours that you can't just go on being shithouse every year on end anymore.
Speaking of free agency I hope we take the piss and go out to get a couple of nearly over the hill stars from other clubs just to provide some interest to fans. Roll on Paul Chapman if Geelong don't want him just for something different. Won't happen though, accepted wisdom will prevail and instead of picking 200 kids and getting one super experienced player for free we'll just pick 200 kids on their own and wonder why they all wander around aimlessly. Although to be honest the MFC are so boring at the moment I'd have Dustin Fletcher just for the novelty of playing a 38-year-old.
Either that or they could get Cloke/Goddard etc. But they won't. Well, maybe Cloke considering he speaks the international language of cold hard cash. I'm slowly coming around to the idea just because of my desire for some kind of circus element to be introduced to the club, but at a mil a year it still seems like they're assuming none of the other kids are ever going to be worth big money. Which is probably right.
2012 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Nathan Jones
*daylight equivalent to the flash of a one million megaton nuclear bomb*
4 - Brent Moloney
3 - James Frawley
2 - Jeremy Howe
1 - Joel Macdonald
Very minor apologies to McDonald, McKenzie, Green, Dunn, Sellar and Grimes - none of whom deserved a vote, but all could have snuck in on the back of the epic crapshoot that was me trying to decide between 4-3-2-1.
That's done it. With Watts detained in a Vietnamese prison, the dominant BOG performance by Jones opens up a gap that cannot be beaten under any circumstances - and that makes him the first man ever to win the Jakovich twice. He also breaks Brock McLean's record of 47 votes in a season - with the chance of plenty more to come. Well deserved, but should give a pat on the back to his teammates for making him look so good.
No movement in the other awards, but that's ok because now is the time to pay tribute to just one man. All hail the king.
48 - Nathan Jones (WINNER: Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year)
20 - Jack Watts
17 - Mitch Clark
16 - Stefan Martin (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Jeremy Howe
15 - Jordie McKenzie
13 - Jack Grimes (CO-LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), James Magner (CO-LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year), Tom McDonald (CO-LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year and Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
11 - James Frawley
10 - Jared Rivers
9 - Daniel Nicholson
8 - Matthew Bate, Brent Moloney
7 - Colin Sylvia
6 - Sam Blease
5 - Clint Bartram
4 - Neville Jetta, Jack Trengove
3 - Brad Green, Mark Jamar
2 - Colin Garland, Joel Macdonald
1 - Rohan Bail, James Sellar
Another cracking turn-up for Docklands, and at least this time we can't be entirely blamed for it. Obviously more than a handful of North fans woke up, saw the weather and decided to stay in and 'enjoy' the 'professional' coverage on television. It's the only explanation for such a rubbish turnout considering how well North are going. That and the fact that it's a shit place to watch anything.
Mind you on that great day when the tank was running riot and The Spencil dropped the ball on his run in only 16,500 people were there so it can always get worse. Odds are that there were about as many of our fans there that day as Saturday considering the way we're going now compared to then (i.e exactly the same). What a day it was too - let none of us ever forget the fiasco that was Dunn on Goldstein all day. One of them has gone on to be a cracking player, and the other is Lynden Dunn.
MFC Facebook Comment of the Week
Feature cancelled. The last thing I need at the moment is to read the opinions of a bunch of illiterate numpties. I'll do the numptie opinions around here. So, in honour of the great year we've had let's send this feature off with a bang.
It is absolutely no certainty that we'll beat Gold Coast in the Empty Stadium Match on Sunday, so it's no time to start taking the piss and playing kids just yet. Not that we've got any who deserve to play anyway mind you considering Cook and Davis have fallen off the face of the earth after almost getting a game a month ago. I'm down for playing both of them, Leigh Williams, Jai Sheahan straight from the thirds and anyone else who can walk by the last couple of rounds but let's insure against utter humiliation by getting past the Suns first?
Lack of suitable replacements aside it's not the time of the year for NO CHANGE so somebody's got to cop it in the neck. Based on scattered reports from Casey's victory over Frankston I'm going for the following.
IN: Gysberts, Couch, Fitzpatrick
OUT: Bail, Spencer, Strauss (omit)
Mind you Frankston are the VFL's version of us, so does anything done against them actually matter?
Apologies to Strauss but he may as well go back and play four quarters at Casey after two underwhelming sub appearances, and to Spencer who tries his heart out but is unlucky that it's not 1984 and ruckmen need to be able to do something other than just tap 'n tackle. Bail wasn't all that bad but somebody else had to go, so unless there's a mystery injury it'll have to be him. Watts would be nice too (especially as a damn forward), but he's obviously gone from minor injury to death over the last couple of weeks so I'm not holding my breath waiting for him to return.
Jetta certainly belted somebody, but with a clean record I suspect he'll just get a reprimand. In the event that the close-up reveals that he hit him with an iron bar and he's rubbed out I'll bring in Morton as well just for the laughs. If nothing else he can give a lecture to some of Gold Coast's promising youngsters about how things can end up going horribly wrong if you play with a bunch of manic depressives.
The moment I walked out of the stadium it started pissing down raining again. It's been that sort of year.