Walking out of a game and saying that it's a good thing you only lost by four goals when you only kept the margin down because the match was a cheap Taiwanese imitation of a league football match is not in any way ideal, but it's a damn sight better than coming out crying about being utterly flogged again. It's too late in the year to get upset about 'only' losing by four goals so I'm willing to completely ignore the 20 minutes of the first and third quarters when we played like Devon Welshpool-Won Wron Woodside and concentrate on the positive points. Like not losing by 150.
Thanks to St Kilda for being today's co-sponsors of the destruction of footy as a spectacle, a potential finals team dragged down into our cesspit to the point where even legitimately good players like Dal Santo and Goddard were acting like the Cockatoo-Collins brothers. Didn't stop them from flogging us for half the game mind you, but despite the fact that they looked almost as bad as us - if not worse - for the other half at least they got to go home with the consolation prize of four points and another life in the finals race. That's a level of mediocrity that I aspire to achieve one day.
Not that the Saints deserved anything better after their pre-match team selection shenanigans. They didn't even bother to assign a mystery injury to Clint Jones and openly admitting he was out for 'team balance'. If a shit team did that etc etc. Good to see our midfield is so non-threatening that other teams can afford to rest taggers when we come to town. Says it all sadly.
Regardless of how little interest they had in the match, knowing that a win was a near certainty, it didn't stop them from treating us like peasants for most of the first quarter. Thank god Riewoldt went off because it looked like he was going to tear us apart single handedly, and after he went we actually started to look ok. Of course this meant that for the second time this season we were destined to be torn apart by Beau Wilkes, but that's fine - because if he kicked five Riewoldt would have had 15.
I know everyone was a huge fan of the Bailey Quarter (0 or 1 goals in Q1), so I've done the math and Neeld is up to seven in his first season, which at the moment is still under Bailey's nine - so for now he doesn't have the indignity of getting shit first quarters named after him - but there's more than enough time to catch up over the next few weeks. If he wants to match Bailey he'll have to make up those extra two as well as five in season 2, six in season 3 and four in season four. No bloody wonder he's (allegedly) gagging to sign Travis Cloke. If only six behinds equalled a goal he'd be the answer to all our problems.
We weren't actually all that bad once Riewoldt went off, it was just that we had bugger all and nothing inside 50. Poor Brad Green announces his retirement after hinting towards it last week with a series of interpretive dances, and then a week later he's standing around getting flogged to death by an entire defence on his own while the midfield (the ones who can get a kick anyway) continually boot it at his feet or directly to the loose man in defence who is doing as he pleases. No wonder he got so excited about smacking Gold Coast, he must have known what was coming this week.
We weren't scoring, but at least neither were they. It all made for a game which was so bad it would make eternal optimists like Kevin Bartlett gouge their eyes out with a spoon. It didn't even have being a grim defensive struggle to hang its hat on, it was just two teams who were absolutely no good having an extra special double shocker while play pinballed around between the two 50m lines, with only the odd shit kick on goal (arise J. Trengove) to liven things up.
It was so bad that at the start of the second quarter both the big screen and the scoreboards shut down. Considering the garbage juice that was being served up on field I'm sure I wasn't the only person who was concentrating more on their technical shenanigans than the footy, but first the small score only boards went off so they put the score on the big screen. Then the big screen picture went off, leaving only the score, then both of them went off and nobody knew what the hell the score was (or particularly cared I'll bet), then the score alone came back on the big screen, then both of them shut down altogether again. Sadly both of them came back on, let's have that happen in the dying minutes of a game where it really matters and watch the chaotic scenes in the stands as rogue fans start killing each other in the stands.
I must admit that I paid absolutely no attention to the first ten minutes of the second quarter. First there was the debacle with the scoreboard, then somebody rang me from an unlisted number and I was so bored that I broke one of my cardinal rules and answered a non-emergency phone call in the middle of the match. The quality of the line was so awful that I couldn't concentrate on what was being said and the game at the same time, and apparently completely missed the customary Jeremy Howe screamer and a shot on goal while yelling "WHAT?" and "I CAN'T HEAR YOU" into a mobile at the back of the Ponsford Stand. Assuming nothing else of any value was missed.
Managed to get out of the phone conversation just in time to see our first goal, and thank god for that too because it was starting to look as if we were going to match the feats of Fremantle when they booted one solitary goal at Football Park a few years ago. After that goal the game then fell into another deep dark hole for a while before we got another, and all of a sudden against the odds things were starting to look interesting.
He did nothing in the second half, and I readily admit to having a soft spot for him, but I like Matthew Bate's first two quarters. Shame that he's about as quick as I am then, because that's what will end him very soon. If he's keen he's got a career set dominating shit competitions where he'll be a step above everyone, but I can't see him surviving here for another season. Respectfully I'm not sure why he was even playing considering where he's at - given that we had no interest in winning anyway I'd much rather have played Gysberts just to get another game into him. Even Michael Evans would have been worth another go, assuming they promoted from the rookie list to play him in the seniors - although that theory failed miserably when applied to Robert Campbell last season. Having said all that I'd still play Bate next week, take no chances against GWS and make sure all the mature bodies are out there to guard against humiliation.
We really did start dominating them during the second, and this without Moloney or Sylvia getting within two postcodes of it, but yet again the lack of any sort of proper forward targets stuffed us. It was one of those days where I could almost convince myself that paying millions for Travis Cloke wouldn't be the worst thing to do, but assuming we don't land the overpriced fish they've got to find another option somewhere. Imagine if Clark got hurt next year and Jurrah's court case didn't go well - with Green retired we'd be back to Garland and Rivers (if still there), and while we were all happy with a bit of experimentation this year I think I speak for everyone in saying that if that has to happen again next season we will riot.
We eventually broke through after all that grim struggle for two (TWO) goals in a row, but in classic Melbourne tradition then just when things started to look up we allowed a set shot to fall short but still land straight in the arms of an opposition player five metres in front of goal. Big thumbs up for that. Forget the 50 pulled straight out of the umpire's choc box which made the probable goal an absolute certainty because they shouldn't have even had the opportunity in the first place. How many times has that happened this year? Once is too many.
So come half time it wasn't actually too bad a margin, and good on us (in a totally patronising way) for making a go of it early in the third quarter via an arsey goal from Dunn and another from a clearly delighted Blease. Suddenly the margin was under a goal and the prospect of an earth shattering upset victory was on the cards. It didn't hurt that their best players were either being shit or in the hospital having their knee scanned - but if you were interested in beauty or aesthetics you'd hardly be watching Melbourne would you?
Sadly if it was completely unexpected that we'd come from four goals down to get within six points during the third quarter (and not concede any goals in the first five minutes stats fans), then it was a true return to form that we ended the term 50 points behind. How I'm not entirely sure, but it was just your typical Melbourne performance - totally unable to stem the onrushing tide and throwing away a match in the space of 20 minutes.
At least for the sake of neutrals somebody had finally started to take the match seriously AND were good enough for it to be apparent. No doubt we were going 100% from minute one, we're just rubbish. The Saints, on the other hand, were a decent team gone bad and from the moment Blease involved himself in his NQR Scenario of the Week and snapped out of bounds from ten metres in front the pressure came and a white flag was duly hoisted while the Saints did as they pleased.
All of a sudden from a position of at least making it look interesting we were staring down the barrel of a 100 point loss and Beau Wilkes kicking 11. That guy should send us a card at the end of the year for making him look good - 11 career goals and eight of them against us. He, Brad Dick and Kent Kingsley should get together sometime and talk about all the days then persecuted us and thought everything was going to be fine before they stunk it up for the rest of their lives. At least he was kind enough to keep it down to five for the day.
Speaking of five goal hauls you can forget everything else, including what turned out to be a most enjoyable last quarter due to St Kilda going to sleep, the storyline of the afternoon was undoubtedly Blease kicking the most unexpected bag of five since Brent Heaver in 1990. He's still on and off like a tap, and remains most likely to parlay his sporting fame into doing bizarre interviews about the Illuminati a'la David Icke, but at the same time he's threatening to become a huge cult figure if he keeps going like this. In retrospect I'll even pay high-fiving the crowd when we were losing just because it all adds up to contribute to his mystique.
It's one thing to go wild for The Spencil because he's a giraffe sized gentleman stretching himself to the limit and having a go, but Blease mixes excitement and sheer, good old fashioned, wide-eyed lunacy like nobody else on our list. Witness, for instance, Neeld's comments about him in this article. Proof yet again that bizarre scenarios follow him around wherever he goes. Not to mention his post-match interview which nearly had me on the floor. What a legend, whatever planet he's on I want to live there.
At this rate, heading towards being our second highest goalkicker, it's no surprise that he's one of the four we're allegedly 'in talks' with (though why in god's name is Bail also on that list?) but the quicker they get his name on a contract the better. At least if he does want to dick us to re-form Miami Vice then it's running up his trade value - or not as the case may be considering their 'surprising loss' today (ten changes, Folau involved) also means they'll have Pick 1 in the pre-season draft too, so they'll be able to snatch him for nowt if he's interested. How very Melbourne it will be for us to be teased for the last month of the season before he tells us to get stuffed.
As for the rest of that list I'm not either not concerned if they don't do a deal or can live without them, but christ knows what they're doing not trying to lock Rivers away. Back in his natural environment today he was really good, and until McDonald learns how to kick properly we can't afford to lose too many defenders - especially considering that there's really not much in reserve other than Frawley. Davis is unproven and possibly about to get the bullet and other than that you're down to pinch hitters like Sellar, Watts and The SME.
As much as I have a fetish for Joel Macdonald - and he has now moved in front of Moloney for average possessions per match this year I'll have you know (18 to 17.06) - if you can only keep one of them do you take him or Rivers? Hard choice for me but I know which one the footy club would pick. No way do both Joel Mac and Dunn go - we can't lose our only two foul mouthed filth merchants simultaneously.
The most bizarre aspect of that Age article was the suggestion that we might be flogging Gysberts to Geelong. No idea how he gets dropped completely (not even just to sub) after waiting so long to play one game this season, but surely whatever we'd get for him is not going to match what we paid in the first place so why bother just to roll the dice on another kid? Unless they've realised he's destined for permanent injury and have decided to cut their losses or he's declared that he hates the place because Max Gawn spewed on him. Alternatively it could all be early Trade Week Radio style idle speculation and waffle, after all the article also forgot Lucas Cook - but so have most of the rest of us.
Speaking of it being that time of the year when we all play our own special list management version of Snog/Marry/Avoid I've forgotten who I was getting rid of and keeping a month ago, but my weekly unpredictable change of heart goes to Lynden Dunn. He's a bit part player and desperately needs to realise the joke's over when it comes to that mo, but the fact that he appears to be an all-round shit bloke on the footy field makes me want him to go around again next year. For where we're at right now I'm willing to keep one of the many 'superstars' we have coming through the ranks (thousands of them) out of the side in favour of somebody who is openly an arsehole.
For instance witness his technique whilst standing the mark to defend a set shot. Where others who won't be named do a poncy little side-to-side hop while waving their arms in the air like Auskick kids, our Lynden rips a bunch of grass out of the ground and hurls it as his opponent during the run-in while screaming what we can only assume is foul abuse - and who's going to do that if we give him the arse?
He could be our Stephen Milne (albeit without the don't even think about it - legal department) and operating at about a 500 career goal deficit, so for that reason I was thrilled to see them operating in the same vicinity early in the match. St Kilda's well know master of diplomacy kicked the first goal as usual before proceeding to do nothing the rest of the day, but for a brief few tantalising moments there was the chance of he and Dunn ending up having Shitblokeocalypse 2012 and ending up punching buggery out of each other. Sadly not to be, but I still think Dunn did a good job. At least he's progressed past being the sub every week.
In the end thanks to some incredible junk time racking up of goals we managed to make it respectable, and thank god for that. More importantly 12.10 takes us to 197.193.1375 and we're just 102 points away passing that famous 1997 mark. Percentage is up to 67.70 too, so we're edging away from the brink on that front as well. Slop for all.
Rules Committee Corner
After the very peculiar bonanza of deliberate out of bounds decisions in Perth on Friday night (15x the season average if you don't mind), one could have expected a similar overreaction in this game, but at the same time nobody should be any more surprised that there turned out to be nil.
Credit then to the umpire whose technique of calling for a throw-in made it look like he was going to pay deliberate every time before he ran the right arm right up from the bowling action to meet the left on his chest. At least he was dedicated to injecting some interest into an otherwise vile, pus dripping slopfest of a game.
To prove that for once both teams had gotten lucky from the umpires I walked in to Demonblog Towers, turned on the TV and saw them paying one in the GWS/Gold Coast game. Not that it wasn't utterly deliberate, but you know they wouldn't have given it in the first quarter last week. Rules on the run as usual, which makes no sense considering they're trying to flog this game to new markets in NSW and Queensland. How are they supposed to rewrite the rulebooks that are handed out at the merchandise stands every week?
Here's one for conspiracy theory fans that I just made up. The AFL are dying to keep the number of stoppages down and want to get their shitty NAB Cup "everything is deliberate" rule in BUT they know everyone has realised it's a shit rule, so what they want people to do now is say "I don't care what happens as long the decisions are consistent". Then they change the rules and declare they're doing it to improve consistency. Then it becomes just as much of a shambolic lottery as it already was but means teams are too scared to go near the boundary line. I'm not saying this is necessarily what they're up to, but if it happens you heard it here first.
Mystery Injury Corner
Last week it was McKenzie two hours before the bounce, this week it was Frawley on Friday and the week before that it was the Stef Martin Experience on Thursday. At least if they keep going back through the week we'll eventually get one we explain before the end of the season, but for now it's a bizarre player crisis on the same level as that which befell the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant softball team in the early 90's.
For those of you playing along at home Jack Watts is Mike Scoscia, Liam Jurrah is Steve Sax, Lynden Dunn is Ken Griffey Jr and everybody else is Ozzie Smith.
2012 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
In all fairness nobody really deserved anything, and at the end of the third quarter I might have given all 15 to Jakovich himself and walked out BUT for the purpose of statistical accuracy here we are.
5 - Jack Grimes
4 - Sam Blease
3 - Joel Macdonald
2 - Jared Rivers
1 - Lynden Dunn
Apologies to Spencer (almost, ALMOST got a vote. Would have brought the house down), McDonald (please learn to kick), Garland, Jones, Bate and Trengove.
Grimes takes the outright lead in the Seecamp as Tom McDonald necks himself out of votes by undoing all his good work by kicking like a double amputee. Should at least take home a share of the Hilton based on Magner violently hitting the wall and assuming the position of perennial sub/VFL player. Elsewhere the SME should capture his second straight Ruckman of the Year next week even if he doesn't play, congratulations on a short and sharp preparation and campaign that Bart Cummings would be proud of.
52 - Nathan Jones (RAMPANT WINNER: Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year)
21 - Jeremy Howe
20 - Jack Watts
17 - Mitch Clark, Jack Grimes (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
16 - Stefan Martin (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
15 - Jordie McKenzie
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)
12 - Jared Rivers
11 - James Frawley
10 - Sam Blease
9 - Brent Moloney, Daniel Nicholson
8 - Matthew Bate
7 - Colin Sylvia
5 - Clint Bartram, Brad Green, Joel Macdonald
4 - Neville Jetta, Jack Trengove
3 - Mark Jamar, Luke Tapscott
2 - Colin Garland
1 - Rohan Bail, Lynden Dunn, James Sellar
Now, St Kilda fans - I know playing us holds about as much excitement value as leaping into a meat mincer but any danger of turning up? Chances are they take similar offence to playing home games at the MCG as we do at Docklands but for an all but guaranteed victory in the midst of a grim struggle for the finals you'd think you'd finish more than 4k above our crowd against Gold Coast.
Let's not get too ahead of ourselves, but a GWS win next week would see them avoid the spoon. Do you see where I'm coming from? Either way we should be right, especially considering that they'll have done their math and realised Gold Coast are no chance of winning any of their remaining matches and giving them the breathing space to have a proper crack. Still, you can't write anything off when Sheedy is involved - what does he care for pick 1 when he's got the chance to further push his grudge against us for not rolling over for him to coach us. Then there's $cully who will presumably be very keen to stick it up us for the Carnival of Hate a few weeks ago.
IN: Cook (come on, we're playing thin kids surely he'll feel right at home), Evans (one roll of the dice to save his career), Gysberts, Watts (cloned after his death a'la Ripley in Alien Resurrection) and Frawley (+ SME any danger?)
OUT: Magner, Bail, Sylvia, ? and whoever has Wednesday's mystery injury.
All indications are that there will be a violent clear-out at the end of the year, and the closer we get to the last game the more obvious it becomes that some are trade/delist/free agent certainties, some might survive for another go and others are going to get caught in the crossfire.
So far I'm taking three off the senior list and one rookie, but no doubt it will run deeper than that - especially if they're intending to sign free agents. Budget for one of them and throw in a promotion to the senior list for Nicholson and you already need to get rid of another two minimum to fit draft picks in - not to mention any picks received from trades. We'll see who moves in/out of the unsafe group in the next few weeks.
Clark, Frawley, Garland, Grimes, Howe, Jamar, Jones, McDonald, McKenzie, Trengove
SAFE PENDING EARTH SHATTERING TRADE WEEK SHOCKS
Gysberts, Martin, Nicholson, Strauss, Tapscott, Watts
SAFE IF HE WANTS TO STAY
NEITHER HERE NOR THERE
Cook, Couch, Davey, Gawn, Magner, Sheahan, Sylvia, Taggert, Tynan, Williams
Bail, Bartram (due to injury), Dunn, Fitzpatrick, Jetta, Jurrah (legal issues), Macdonald, Sellar, Spencer
Bate, Bennell, Davis, Evans, Morton
Green (retired), Lawrence (delisted), Moloney (free agent), Petterd (trade)
Apparently Lawrence has already 'walked out', which I'm sure will be used as evidence of a club in crisis despite nobody in the media other than Phil Cleary ever having heard of him. Complete non-story, dead man walking rookie who had originally walked out and gone home straight after being drafted sees another rookie upgraded to the last spot for the season and decides to take the short cut and avoid having to be sacked. I can't see us missing him any more than Trent Zomer or Cameron Johnston. Opening the sluices for the blood letting might be the first and last notable moment he was ever involved with at this club.
Final Thoughts: End of Season pictorial special
Saturday 8 September
Sunday 9 September
Monday 10 September
Tuesday 11 September